For Many Men Retirement Does Not Go Well

Many men retire and quickly begin to enjoy a happy, healthy retirement. But unfortunately, for many men retirement is anything but a happy, healthy experience. In fact, some researchers believe that for these men, leaving the workplace may be a health hazard.

This is because for these men, involvement in creative, valued, satisfying employment is a significant contributor to good physical and mental health. It is a masculinity thing. And their masculinity takes a significant hit when life after retirement does not live up to its promise.

There has been much research on this topic and it has been going on for fifty plus years. But the results have not been conclusive. I believe the simple reason for the lack of overwhelming support for the research is that many men are affected negatively, but many others are not. Clearly some men look forward to retirementFor them work was over-rated and was never something they actually enjoyed. It was unfulfilling. These men look forward to retirement as a time of freedom and activity. For this group work was never tied to their masculinity and feelings of self esteem.

For many men, however, researchers say there is strong evidence that most of their self identity comes from paid employment. And a self identity based on productive and valued work can be good for one’s health. Thus, the positive aspects of self identity based upon fulfilling work need to be encouraged as part of a healthy life. But conversely, there can be a health risk and danger when an individual over-identifies with work.

So employment confers many health benefits, not the least of which is a steady income. Obviously employment does not guarantee affluence, but on the other hand, the relationship between poverty and poor health is well documented. Other potential health benefits provided by work include:

  1. being in control of one’s life
  2. feelings of being productive
  3. being a place where men make friends
  4. doing something which is valued by others, and
  5. a sense of routine.

As a result, retirement can produce a crisis for some men when this source of self-identity is lost. And in fact, some research suggests that work is actually protection against premature death.

The health risks for these men resulting from retirement; in addition to the loss of income, include:

  1. a negative impact on social well-being
  2. feelings of isolation
  3. difficulty maintaining friendships from work
  4. negative affects when positive expectations of retirement are not met.

As indicated earlier, while these feelings affect large numbers of men in retirement, many men do enjoy happy, healthy retirements. Often social/economic status influences positively retired men’s health. It can be noted that while money cannot buy happiness, it is a resource that can lead to good health in retirement. More wealth can give men the ability to overcome all of the negatives affecting those struggling in retirement.

In conclusion, how well men do in retirement varies greatly. But clearly those whose self identity was based largely on their work can be the ones with the greatest struggle.

On a personal note……….

When I began this blog thirteen months ago, I indicated that I had not made a lot of plans for my retirement, but that I very much wished to “do retirement well”. It was, and is, my hope that my reading and writing on the subject would be a catalyst in helping me to retire successfully. This particular post helps me to understand myself. I relate with the men whose identity was closely tied to their work. And in leaving the workplace I have had many of the struggles described above. In fact, I’m thinking I may have been dealing with depression at times since April 9, 2015, my retirement date.

I’ll need to successfully get past these feelings if I’m to do retirement well and enjoy a Lemonade Retirement! So I plan to continue working on my retirement and writing this blog as well. It’s been helpful to me,…..and I hope at least a few others.

  • Roger Berwanger

    Great post, Mike. I haven’t had a problem because I never really retired. I have no idea how not working can be fun. Cheers!

    • Mike Duvall

      I know what you mean. I am trying to find the perfect opportunity. Turned down one offer; now looking at another. I am being unrealistic, I know.

      Hope things are progressing for you.