Retirement depression is a condition that affects many people who are transitioning from their working life to retirement. It can manifest in feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, boredom, and a lack of purpose. Symptoms may include fatigue, decreased interest in activities, lack of motivation, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability, or restlessness.
Is Retirement Depression Normal?
Many retirees ask if it’s normal to start feeling depressed about retirement. The answer is, yes, those feelings of retirement depression are actually quite common. You may want to talk to someone if you are disappointed with your retirement life.
It would probably be best if you spoke to a therapist if you are experiencing a great deal of depression or suspect that it may be clinical depression.
Depression vs Sadness
Although depression often involves some feelings of sadness, it also tends to present a multitude of other physical symptoms and seemingly out-of-control emotions. Basically, sadness is one of those everyday emotions that everybody will experience at certain moments in their lives.
It could involve anything from challenges to disappointment, or especially loss. It’s also usually related to specific events or triggered by something in particular.
However, unlike common everyday sadness, depression happens to be a precise mental health diagnosis and, if left untreated, could actually last for several months or even years. Therefore, it should be taken much more seriously than occasional feelings of sadness.
Main Retirement Depression Reasons
It’s quite clear that retirement depression is a normal occurrence. For starters, working full-time probably made you feel a sense of purpose and achievement and those feelings can potentially be lost way too quickly when you retire. And, when you add to that the fact that retirement suddenly brings about a totally new schedule for you (and possibly your spouse at the same time), this can easily create some emotional conflict.
In addition, retirement can bring on a heightened awareness of the reality of your aging, and that in itself can trigger some mental conflict. So, all of those retirement realities can cause anxiety, depression, or a host of other mental challenges.
That’s why it’s so important for you to stay proactive regarding the management of your retirement while also ensuring that you’re limiting your lack of activity and associated stresses that can easily occur.
Percentage of Retirees Who Become Depressed
Like many people facing retirement, you may wonder how common retirement depression is. And, like most retirees, you probably also want to know about the actual percentage of retirees who suffer from depression as they try to navigate their new normal.
It's actually estimated that nearly one-third of U.S. retirees develop depression symptoms during this stage of their lives. However, it's quite possible to manage that depression effectively and support and self-care are a few of the things that can make a big difference.
Percentage of Happy Retirees
If you were curious about the percentage of retirees who suffer from depression, then you might also want to know the percentage on the other side of the retirement coin. The fact is that other recent research shows 97% of retirees having a sense of purpose that’s really strong.
They were all typically happy campers compared to the others who didn’t have that sense of purpose that leads to an overall feeling of well-being.
Why You’re So Depressed
There are a number of common reasons why retirement can have a negative impact on your overall sense of self-worth, leaving you feeling adrift, or even leading to depression. Here are just a few that you could be worrying about, including how you will:
- Adapt to a new and different spousal relationship now that you'll both be home all day,
- Cope with declining health,
- Handle your loss of goals, identity, and routine,
- Manage financially when you’re on a fixed income.
Retirement Depression Symptoms
Symptoms of depression when you retire can include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Anger outbursts and general irritability
- Appetite changes
- Body aches and fatigue
- Crying for no reason
- Decreased ability to feel pleasure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Less enjoyment in activities that you’re used to being interested in
- An overwhelming sense of worthlessness and/or guilt
- Sleep pattern changes
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
Other Ways Retirement Affects Your Mental Health
On top of depression, you could experience some other common mental health effects. Did you know that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health challenges that seniors have to face?
Anxiety symptoms are often the result of financial concerns, chronic illness, or even the inherent fear of having to depend on others, as well as other factors. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle could also lead to anxiety.
As a retiree, (especially if you had to leave work unwillingly or unexpectedly) you might also be experiencing persistent angry feelings that are aimed either at yourself, your previous employer, or even family members.
The #1 Retirement Concern
Although there are numerous concerns that uncontrollably swirl around in the heads of retirees, at the top of the list is the fact that 66% of retirees in this country alone are afraid of running out of funds during their retirement, according to one recent survey.
In addition, 50% of retirees reported that they were concerned that they will experience some major unexpected health expenses during retirement that they simply can't afford. Remember, Medicare only covers part of them and even with a good supplemental program, your out-of-pocket could end up being a financial disaster.
Last but certainly not least, 21% of those surveyed stated that they’re worried about being forced to retire considerably earlier than they were expecting to. This may not be #1 but it's a real concern and happens far too often, throwing retirees for a loop since they weren't prepared yet for retirement. That's why early planning is crucial since early retirement could end up on anybody's doorstep at any time.
To further combat retirement depression over finances, if you don’t want to be one of the millions of retirees in America who are perched precariously on the poverty line, then you should be preparing a sound retirement plan designed for steering you off the common planning pitfall path.
Otherwise, you could easily be risking the chance that you’ll make some very common mistakes, hindering your retirement ability or creating some serious financial issues after you retire.
The Hardest Retirement Reality
In addition to finances, illness, and early retirement, for many retirees, there are two things that come up as being the hardest retirement realities. They are establishing some new interpersonal relationships as well as a new overall structure to their lives that are effective at replacing what their work environments offered.
After all, work usually dictated the entire structure of people’s days and even weeks for many years preceding retirement. When you retire, of course, those relationships and that important structure need to be replaced. This can be challenging for some but certainly not impossible.
Just be patient and, most importantly, try not to stress out about trying to speed up this process. Remember, it took years to establish those work relationships and your everyday life structure, so baby steps are the name of the game here. It may not happen overnight but it will happen.
Retiring Couples’ Issues
There’s a retirement transitional period that often puts stress on relationships, especially those between romantic partners. Many retirees fail to discuss retirement with their partners prior to it actually happening. Therefore, both can end up having different expectations. This could cause a great deal of conflict at home.
Also, when couples go from interacting with each other only during the evening hours to literally spending all (or most of) their time constantly together, all of the relationship dynamics could change.
The Ten Worst Financial Retirement Mistakes
In order to have a happier and more stress-free retirement, avoid making these common financial retirement mistakes:
- Deciding to Raid Your Retirement Fund.
- Employer Benefits Left on the Table.
- Failing to Master Your Finances Before Retirement.
- Failure to Plan.
- Failing to Leverage Your Tax Breaks.
- Making Poor Money Management Decisions Overall.
- Not Asking For Help if You're In Over Your Head.
- Racking Up Too Much Debt.
- Underestimating Your Medical Costs.
- Waiting for Way Too Long to Get a Retirement Plan Started.
Financial professionals have long warned of an impending retirement crisis. Over 25 million Americans over the age of 60 live in poverty according to the National Council on Aging. While warnings and struggles around them are common, many people in the working class ignore them.
A recent survey by GOBankingRates found that 64% of Americans will retire broke. Furthermore, 45% of Americans have no retirement savings whereas 19% expect to retire with less than $10,000 in their retirement accounts.
Regaining Purpose After Retirement
Retirement can be a difficult transition for many, as it can mean the loss of purpose and structure in life. However, there are plenty of ways to find new purpose and meaning during retirement. Here are a few tips:
- Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy and make time to pursue it on a regular basis. This could be anything from reading to gardening or painting, as long as it brings you joy and satisfaction.
- Spend quality time with friends and family members who bring out the best in you. This could involve going on outings together or simply having meaningful conversations over coffee or dinner.
- Pursue volunteer opportunities that allow you to give back to your community and make use of your skillset in meaningful ways; this could range from helping out at an animal shelter to tutoring children in need of assistance with their studies
- Use your retirement as a good opportunity for self-discovery. Try exploring new places, taking classes, and learning about different cultures. The key here is to simply try whatever interests you.
Set goals for yourself so that you have something specific to work towards; this will help keep your motivation levels high even when life gets tough.
What You Can Do
There are a few steps you can take to help avoid retirement depression:
- Stay connected- Maintaining relationships with family and friends is important for emotional well-being. Try to stay in touch, even if it’s just through phone calls or video chats.
- Find purposeful activities- Look for activities that give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, such as volunteering, taking classes, or pursuing hobbies.
- Get physical activity- Exercise can help boost your mood and provide structure to your day. Even going on a daily walk can make a difference in your mood and outlook on life.
- Seek professional help if needed- If you are feeling overwhelmed with retirement depression it may be beneficial to seek professional help from a counselor or therapist who can provide support and advice.
20 Happier Retirement Tips
So, at this point, “happy” is the word of the day, so here are 20 tips for avoiding retirement depression and enjoying a happier, more satisfying life by:
1. Avoiding downsizing because you might actually need more space now for guests or new hobbies.
2. Being a mentor to a younger person who is starting out in his/her career.
3. Not micromanaging and always seeing the bigger picture.
4. Bearing in mind that time may be short, but your life is long.
5. Choosing happiness every day.
6. Creating a new routine to replace your old working-life one.
7. Figuring out what really matters to you and eliminating anything that could be wasting your time and adding to your feelings of depression.
8. Getting a part-time job doing something you’ve always wanted to do.
9. Getting a pet because scientific research has shown that it could be good for your health, leading to improved feelings of well-being.
10. Getting a much-needed makeover (whether you’re a guy or a girl, this can change your whole outlook on everything).
11. Joining a seniors’ recreational group or sports league to help you stay active and connected.
12. Letting go of your former prestige and not clinging to your past accomplishments.
13. Living in the present since nothing says “old” like trying to live in the past.
14. Never forgetting that you can definitely still do some great things even though you're retired.
15. Starting a small business or some other side hustle.
16. Surrounding yourself only with individuals who tend to motivate you when it comes to fully enjoying your retirement years.
17. Taking some online continuing education classes online or going to a local college.
18. Taking up a new hobby or picking up where you left off on an old one.
18. Trying a change of scenery (like taking a cruise, staying at the beach, or going to Europe).
20. Volunteering your time at a local charity.
If you're feeling symptoms of retirement depression, it's essential to reach out for help. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can be beneficial as they can offer support and understanding.
Additionally seeking professional help, like counseling or therapy may be beneficial in helping you address your feelings and find ways to cope with them. On top of providing information and teaching skills about how to cope with and adjust to retirement, therapists can also assess the severity of your depression and recommend medication if necessary.
So, if you’re experiencing four or more of the above mentioned depression symptoms daily for more than two weeks, reaching out for professional support could be your best option.
On the other hand, you might only experience a few symptoms listed, which is not necessarily an indication that what you’re experiencing is actually depression. If so, making one or more of the recommended changes could do the trick and help you to be on the road to a happier retirement life! And, the good news is that not all of the effects that retirement can have on your mental health end up leading to challenges.
The fact is that the research data from one recent Health and Retirement Study clearly showed many people are experiencing plenty of positive health effects, which include an increased sense of satisfaction with life in general following retirement.