Some 3.6 million people aged 65-plus in the UK have retired earlier than they expected due to circumstances out of their control, research revealed.
According to the analysis of retirement provider Just Group – which polled more than 1,000 UK adults aged more than 65-years-old – illness (25 per cent), redundancy (21 per cent) and care demands (10 per cent) are the main reasons people retire earlier than expected.
Only one in four (26 per cent) said they retired early because they had enough pension or savings that they could afford to stop working, the research added.
However, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) UK labour market report, published in January, showed the employment level for people aged 50 plus stood at slightly more than 10 million for the period from September to November 2018.
Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, argued that the research shows that "for many the dream of early retirement may actually be more of a nightmare".
He said: "Ill-health can strike at any time and becomes more likely the older we are, while redundancies are a difficult point in many people’s working careers.
"Being forced to stop work is difficult for anyone but can be especially difficult for those over 50 – four in 10 fail to find new a job within a year, a far higher ratio than their younger counterparts.
"Unemployment also means people cannot bank their regular income into a pension and may even be tempted to dip into existing retirement savings."
Mr Lowe argued that these circumstances make it "so important that those getting closer to retirement take stock of their financial situation and assess their retirement options".
Just's research also concluded that twice as many women (13 per cent) were forced into retirement to care for a family member compared to men (6 per cent).
Women were also one third more likely to retire early due to illness, while just one in five were able to choose to leave the workforce for positive financial reasons.
Mr Lowe added: "The findings highlight the strain that providing care for family members can place upon households who are either entering residential care or require some other form of professional help – with the result that many people are forced into giving up their own jobs or careers early to provide the necessary support.
"This is why it is vital that people do make financial plans as early as possible ahead of retirement and are aware of their options. It means they should be in a better position to manage any nasty shocks and mitigate the impact on their life and loved ones."