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OBJECTIVE: To report on retirement ages of two cohorts of senior doctors in the latter stages of their careers. DESIGN: Questionnaires sent in 2014 to all medical graduates of 1974 and 1977. SETTING: UK. PARTICIPANTS: 3695 UK medical graduates. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Retirement status by age at the time of the survey and age at retirement if retired. Planned retirement ages and retirement plans if not retired. RESULTS: Of contactable doctors, 85% responded. 43.7% of all responding doctors had fully retired, 25.9% had 'retired and returned' for some medical work, 18.3% had not retired and were working full-time in medicine, 10.7% had not retired and were working part-time in medicine and 1.4% were either doing non-medical work or did not give details of their employment status. The average actual retirement age (including those who had retired but subsequently returned) was 59.6 years (men 59.9, women 58.9). Psychiatrists (58.3) and general practitioners (GPs) (59.5) retired at a slightly younger age than radiologists (60.4), surgeons (60.1) and hospital specialists (60.0). More GPs (54%) than surgeons (26%) or hospital medical specialists (34%) were fully retired, and there were substantial variations in retirement rates in other specialties. Sixty-three per cent of women GPs were fully retired. CONCLUSIONS: Gender and specialty differences in retirement ages were apparent and are worthy of qualitative study to establish underlying reasons in those specialties where earlier retirement is more common. There is a general societal expectation that people will retire at increasingly elderly ages; but the doctors in this national study retired relatively young.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





physicians, retirement, workforce