Social Capital and Unretirement: Exploring the Bonding, Bridging, and Linking Aspects of Social Relationships

Ernest Gonzales, W. Benjamin Nowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Working longer is an important area of research given extended life expectancy, shortfalls of retirement income, desires to remain socially engaged, and solvency concerns of social insurance programs. The purpose of this longitudinal population-based study of older adults is to examine how different types of social resources (social bonding, bridging, and linking) relate to returning to work after retirement. Data were drawn from the Health and Retirement Study of fully retired older adults aged 62+ in 1998 (N = 8,334) and followed to 2008. After controlling for a comprehensive set of fixed and time-varying covariates, findings suggest that social bridging (informal volunteering) and social linking (formal volunteering, partnered with an employed spouse) were strongly and positively related to returning to work (Hazard Ratio [HR]: 1.49, p <.001; HR: 1.58, p <.0001; and HR: 1.75, p <.0001, respectively). Social bonding resources were not significantly associated with returning to work. Implications for social policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1100-1117
Number of pages18
JournalResearch on Aging
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017



  • civic engagement
  • employment
  • retirement
  • social capital
  • social policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

Cite this