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PCP Retirement Age Consistent Despite Changing Demographics

WASHINGTON, DC – Primary care physicians tend to retire in their mid-60s, and that statistic appears to be holding firm despite a changing composition of the profession.

So says a new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, which notes that retirement of primary care physicians is a matter of increasing concern in light of physician shortages.

Because medical school enrollment and residency programs were expanded in the 1960s through 1980s, more “baby boomer” physicians are now reaching retirement. At the same time, demand is growing because of an aging population and the effects of the Affordable Care Act, according to background information in the article.

Led by the Robert Graham Center-Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, the investigation sought to identify the ages when the majority of primary care physicians retire and to identify demographic and practice-setting differences.

To do so, the study team used the AMA Physician Masterfile data from the most recent five years (2010–2014). The analysis, which also compared that information to the 2008 Masterfile data, defined retirement as leaving clinical practice.

With the 2014 Masterfile including 77,987 clinically active primary care physicians between ages 55 and 80 years, results indicate the median age of retirement from clinical activity of all primary care physicians during that time period was 64.9 years. At the same time, the median age of retirement from any activity was 66.1 years.

“However measured, retirement ages were generally similar across primary care specialties,” study authors wrote, noting that female physicians had a median retirement about one year earlier than males. No substantive differences in retirement ages were identified between rural and urban primary care physicians.

“Primary care physicians in our data tended to retire in their mid-60s,” the study concluded. “Relatively small differences across sex, practice location, and time suggest that changes in the composition of the primary care workforce will not have a remarkable impact on overall retirement rates in the near future."