Retirement: is it good or bad?

It’s a golden time – retirement is your reward for all those years of dedication and output! But how does it really affect people? 

Health breakthroughs over the last decades mean that people are living longer, and that means more retirees. The trend has led to studies on how retirement affects people’s health and quality of life -some of their findings may surprise you.

What retirement can do to your health

One study found that almost all the people in their 9000-person trial showed similar effects: they experienced positive physical and mental changes during the first year of retirement, but those faded with time. In the years following, subjects started to suffer from physical ailments like hypertension, heart disease and arthritis. You may think that these are simply signs of normal ageing, but they can also be caused by less physical activity and social stimulation. In truth, getting up in the morning and taking care of your appearance has more to do with seeing other people in the day than you might think!

Another study examined two specific areas: stroke and heart attack, and their findings showed something different. In a study covering more than 5000 people, the retirees were 40% more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those still working, and the increase was higher during the first year after retirement! While this could be attributed to less physical activity, it may also have something to do with less disciplined eating and plain stress.

What retirement can do to your mind

Factors like work addiction or less income and rising cost of medical care can certainly lead to more stress. And you can’t let off steam around the water cooler with work buddies! Not having a steady income and daily deadlines to keep you engaged leads to loneliness which impacts your health. While this separation phase is unavoidable, you can anticipate and manage it. The key is to see retirement as a process, rather than an event. Sure, you might have a retirement date, but viewing it as day 1 of a life adjustment rather than the last day of your career may be a life-saver.

Turn it to your advantage

Some subjects found that retirement had benefited them in every way; they were loving this time in their lives and researchers wanted to know what were they doing differently. When asked what made retirements healthy, enjoyable, and rewarding, they found 4 key elements:

  1. Make new social contacts and establish a network. When you retire, you aren’t just leaving a job, you’re also going to miss daily contact with friends and colleagues. Link up with people outside the job who share your interests.
  2. Stimulate your brain, and nothing does it better than creativity. If you aren’t interested in writing your memoirs, then landscape your garden, make sushi or teach extra maths – the list is endless. Bottom-line: unleashing your inner Picasso keeps your brain healthy!
  3. It’s time to play! Golf, dancing, tennis, bridge, starting a chess club, hiking, joining an amateur theatre group or tai chi class and travelling are just some of the ways to fill a month with regular socialising and activity. While you’re having fun doing things you never had time for, you’re forming new friendships and strengthening your social network.
  4. Don’t stop learning! While being creative keeps your brain healthy as you express, learning keeps your mind active as you absorb information and skills. Learn how to play that bass guitar or to speak Spanish/Mandarin – you can!

Take charge of your retirement process

While retirement is ranked 10th on the list of life’s 43 most stressful events by some, being aware of the pitfalls means you can change it into a positive and very rewarding phase in your life. Get out there, meet the people, see the sights and look good – it’s your time!

Joanne Hart




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