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What’s Wrong With Your Retirement? Poor Mental Health?


Congratulations! You’ve finally made it out of the nine-to-five and have some peace and quiet.

Retirement can improve one’s mental health substantially. Not only are the pressures of the workplace gone but so are the constraints. No longer do you have to wake up at a certain time or plan your day, week or month in accordance to work commitments.

Also, in the first few years of retirement you’re likely to still be in reasonably good physical health. You’re also likely to be comfortable money-wise (at least more so than later in your retirement) and, if you’re that type of person, you’ll have a vibrant social-life with friends, kids and grandkids. 

Retirement also coincides with a time when many people achieve something called gero-transcendence which is a form of spirituality associated with older people. They tend to feel a strong connection to the spiritual world, feel that dead loved ones are close and see death as something not worth fearing.

With that said, there are many people who feel like retirement has had a negative impact on their mental health. Here are some of the reasons why retirement can cause depression and a few ways to fix it!



How Retirement Can Have A Negative Impact On Mental Health

Needless to say, life after retirement isn’t all good. 

The most obvious issue facing people post-retirement is the gradual decline of their physical and mental capability. For every year that passes, they are reminded of something they are no longer able to do. 

Contrast this with the vast amount of time and freedom that post-retirement life offers and we see a clear conflict: I finally have the time to do what I want vs. My body won’t allow me to do what I want.

As those of you who read my articles regularly will know, depression is born out of inner-conflict. Each stage of life has its own inner-conflict and retirement is no exception.

Another example of an inner-conflict that typically affects retirees is that of: having life experience to share vs. having no one who wants to receive it.

Post-retirement life is all about finding a new purpose, something to replace the sense of purpose they received from going to work every day. Until then, they will no longer feel useful and their life will seem meaningless.

Sharing life experiences and mentoring younger generations can therefore seem like a good way of giving one’s life a much-needed sense of meaning. But unfortunately, those who are on the receiving end of one’s wisdom will, in most cases, not appreciate it.

The process of creating meaning in post-retirement life may, from that point, seem overwhelming and many may become passive as a result. They may choose not to leave home because they see no point in going out. Being stuck at home all day with one’s life partner, who work had previously afforded them an daily break from, may strain the relationship and force one to reflect on one’s life choices. 

In other words, it’s the absence of meaning and the abundance of time that sows the seeds of an inner-conflict that will ultimately lead to depression and poor mental health.


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How To Fix Retirement To Improve Mental Health

The good news is that there are many ways in which retirement can be changed to improve one’s mental health.

The first and perhaps most effective change would be to gradually retire by decreasing one’s workload overtime. Not only would this mitigate the sudden lack of purpose experienced during a traditional retirement but it would also give an economic benefit and increase social exposure whilst affording the soon-to-be retiree some time to plan for the difficulties that he or she is about to face in retirement.

A flexible retirement age would have a similar effect.

Another, often overlooked, way of improving ones retirement is by changing one’s living situation. 

A lot of people choose to stay put in their old living quarters post retirement despite friends and family moving away. By choosing a living situation that will increase social exposure, be that by moving closer to one’s children and grandchildren or moving into the city, we decrease the possibility of being passive and becoming isolated.

Having access to day centers and activities and organizations that promote a stronger connection to the local community will have a similar effect.



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