Depression, Work and Retirement

17 Aug 2022

I’ve seen a lot of people get very depressed about their work, for all sorts of reasons – unfulfilled expectations, high stress, sheer boredom, a dislike of some people at work… and a host of other reasons. Has there ever been a published study of how much work problems contribute to depression in the UK? For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed that getting depressed about work is more prevalent in men than women, and especially university-educated men, but that’s just my experience, some of you may disagree.


For people whose depression is at least partly rooted in work issues, it would be reasonable to expect that retirement should, at the least, make such people less depressed. But this isn’t always the case; I’ve seen several people slump into serious depression shortly after retirement, with a couple sinking into alcoholism, one so depressed he was on suicide watch, and two whose marriages went on the rocks within months. And, of course, there’s also the issue of money, especially in times – like now - when many people with limited pensions suffer from a mix of rising prices and low interest rates on their savings, and have to forgo many of the things they’ve spent years looking forward to – and sometimes even worry if they can afford to pay their heating bills..


With money problems, why people get depressed is pretty obvious. But what about the others?


I saw a survey a few years ago which suggested that around a third of recent retirees think they retired too early, and about a fifth went back to work within 3 years of retiring. The thing more recent retirees missed than any other was the social side of work – even just being with other people most days – but the loss of a structure to life and/or a sense of purpose was also quite common.


One of the best pieces of advice I got about retirement was this: think about what you are retiring to, not just what you are retiring from, several years before retiring. This advice affected me: I could have afforded to retire at 59 or 60, but instead I cut back on the number of days worked and the type of work I’d take (I was self-employed), until I was much more sure what I wanted from retirement. I am convinced that this was the right decision for me: having a lot of free days made me realise that I needed structure and purpose, that I couldn’t spend hours on end reading books and watching TV, no matter how good the books or TV were, and I needed a feeling of achieving things on a regular basis.  


Any comments? And: how many of you would say that work issues were a significant factor to becoming depressed?”  


Oldie But Goldie

A Moodscope member.

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