Steinbrook and Weinstein pose a legitimate question regarding the precise validity of the finding reported by Orkin et al.1 that the mean age of retirement for anesthesiologists who retired before 1985 was 57. We defer to Orkin et al.1 for clarifying their methodology and the validity of their finding.
Whether the precise mean age for retirees before 1985 was 57 or modestly different, the more important question remains whether or not the American public will face a future shortfall (or surplus) in the workforce of anesthesiologists. After a long decline over the past century, the trend of participation in the workforce by older Americans began increasing in the 1980s.† Anesthesiologists are only one group among many for whom this trend appears to hold true. As with workers in other professions, increased longevity as well as economic factors—including less reliable pension plans and the recession of 2008—have compelled an increasing number of older anesthesiologists to re-evaluate their retirement plans. But as we point out in our editorial, the push and pull toward retirement is only part of the larger question regarding workforce supply and demand among anesthesiologists.
Munnell AH. What Is the Average Retirement Age? Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Brief, August 2011, Number 11-11. Available at: http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/IB_11-11.pdf. Accessed February 21, 2013.