Harvard Men's Health Watch

Work, vacations, and retirement: Will they affect your health?

In the old days, many men began to work during boyhood and carried on until they could work no longer. Vacations were little more than brief interludes as the seasons changed on the farm or the laws of supply and demand required less productivity. Not anymore! Industrialization, educational opportunities, affluence, greater life expectancy, and pensions have swept away the old patterns. Men go to work later, they have time for vacations, and most live long enough to face years of retirement.

It's remarkable progress — but work can still be demanding and stressful, vacations can be disruptive, and retirement a mixed blessing. How do these new rhythms affect your health?

Caution: Men at work

In addition to its obvious economic implications, a productive work life is vital to a man's self-esteem and psychological well-being. That's why Freud said a man's mission in life is to work and to love. Love can cement the social networks that protect a man's health, but careless love can be very risky indeed. And work can also be a double-edged sword.

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