Professional and psychosocial factors affecting the intention to retire of Australian medical practitioners

Chanaka Wijeratne, Joanne K Earl, Carmelle Peisah, Georgina M Luscombe and Johanna Tibbertsma
Med J Aust 2017; 206 (5): 209-214. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00883


Objective: To determine the professional and personal factors associated with the intention to retire (ITR) by medical practitioners.

Design, participants and setting: Cross-sectional survey of currently practising Australian doctors aged 55 or older registered with a commercial database. Participants completed an online self-report questionnaire in October 2015.

Main outcome measures: Associations between intention to retire and demographic and practice characteristics; health; emotional, social and financial resources; work centrality; and anxiety about ageing.

Results: 62.0% of 1048 respondents (17.5% response rate) intended to retire, 11.4% had no intention of retiring and 26.6% were unsure. The odds of retiring were higher for those with adequate financial resources (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.31; 95% CI, 1.18–1.44) and greater anxiety about ageing (aOR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02–1.09); the odds of retiring were lower for international medical graduates (aOR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.44–0.85), for those with greater work centrality (aOR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.85–0.92) and greater emotional resources (aOR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93–0.98). In a model including medical specialty as a variable, being a psychiatrist (aOR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.20–0.79) or general practitioner (aOR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34–0.87) were associated with reduced odds of intending to retire.

Conclusion: Intention to retire was determined by a mixture of professional and psychosocial characteristics. In particular, our results support the view that delaying retirement by doctors may be related to the primacy of work compared with other life roles. Our results may be used to develop educational programs that support the transition to and improve adjustment to retirement.

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  • Chanaka Wijeratne1
  • Joanne K Earl2
  • Carmelle Peisah3
  • Georgina M Luscombe4
  • Johanna Tibbertsma3

  • 1 Euroa Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital and Community Health Services, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Flinders Business School, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA
  • 3 University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 4 University of Sydney, Orange, NSW


Financial support for the study was provided by an unrestricted educational grant from Avant Mutual Group.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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