Retiring is like any other change in your life… it’s best considered as a process, not as a single event.
Like any other major change in your life, such as entering your teenage years or beginning your working career, retiring brings changes good and bad.
While a lot of research has been done on how your health is affected by retirement itself, there have been very few studies done on how being a retiree affects your health after you retire.
The stress of retiring
Life is a series of stressful events. Indeed one study has ranked retiring as 10th on the list of life’s most stressful events.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, retirement is, for some people, a chance to get away from the daily grind and relax… for others, it can be the beginning of a period of declining physical and mental abilities and increasing limitations on what they are capable of doing.
Another study in the Harvard Health Blog suggests that “moving from work to no work comes with a boatload of other changes.”
If you loved your work, retirement can bring some emptiness of purpose. If you had a stressful job, retirement brings relief.
Negative effects of retirement
A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the USA concluded that retiring can lead to an increase of up to 16% in difficulties associated with mobility and doing daily chores, a 5 to 6% increase in illnesses, and a decline in mental health of up to 9%.
These negative effects, however, can be reduced if you are married and have a good social life, engage in sports or other physical activities, or work part-time after retiring.
The negative health effects of retirement may be worse if you have been forced to retire. According to the National Institute on Aging, health problems have a big influence on any decision to retire early and its aftermath.
Data from the US Health and Retirement Study shows that retirees are 40% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those still working. The increase in this likelihood was greater during the first year after retiring, but levelled off after that.
A study in England found that retirement significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. In particular, retirement raises the risk of a severe cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Positive effects of retirement
But there are other studies which link retirement with improvements in health, or show that it has a neutral effect on physical wellbeing.
One study found that retirement does not change the risk of major chronic diseases.
This study also found that retirement can bring about a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and symptoms of depression among people with chronic diseases.
So the impact of retirement on health may depend on the individual.
In other words, if you loved your work, retirement can bring some emptiness of purpose. On the other hand, if you had a stressful job, retirement can bring relief.
People who retire because of health problems may not enjoy retirement as much as someone who retire feeling healthy.
Tips for a healthy retirement
Here are the four things you must do to experience a fruitful and enjoyable retirement:
Keep up your daily contact with friends and colleagues where possible
Ensure your life continues to have a purpose by continuing to engage in activities such as sports or traveling
Keep your brain healthy by being creative… study an absorbing subject, paint, play music, write, do gardening, or help other people
Keep learning by exploring subjects you’ve always been interested in or new ones you have lately found engaging.
Understanding what large group studies say about retirement is interesting, but we are all different and no amount of studies can predict how retirement will affect your life.