Why am I unhappy in retirement?
16 Aug 2023

Why am I unhappy in retirement?


Why am I unhappy in retirement?

If retirement is supposed to be a joyous time, then why, do so many people struggle to adjust?

A retirement party, a golden handshake, a slap on the back with a ‘You lucky thing!’ comment. These are all stereotypical accompaniments to this particular time of life., I’ve even seen people taken off long-term medication as they are due to retire because the expectation of retirement is that ‘the fun starts now!’  So why then, do so many people struggle on the other side?

Many people love work, it’s been a big part of their life for potentially 40 years. A big factor. A loss of role can have a significant impact on retirement as retirement often involves a transition from a structured and defined position in the workforce to a phase of life where one’s identity and sense of purpose may undergo changes.  Life transitions can be challenging and in my experience, many people don’t see retirement as a necessarily difficult one and so little is done to prepare for it.

A loss of role is a significant (often underrated) life event and here are some of the ways in which it can impact people:

Loss of identity: This aspect is perhaps the greatest threat to a person’s well-being and sense of self.  Many people derive a significant portion of their identity and self-worth from their professional roles. Let’s face it, our work can take up half of our day. We can define ourselves by it and many people do. Retirement can lead to a loss of that identity, leaving individuals feeling uncertain or adrift as they adjust to a new sense of self. May people struggle to now who they are without their job as a grounding influence.

Reduced sense of purpose: Work often provides a sense of purpose, direction, and daily structure. When that role is no longer present, individuals may experience a diminished sense of purpose and struggle to find meaningful activities or goals that give their life direction and fulfilment.

Social disconnection: Workplaces often serve as social networks, providing opportunities for social interaction and a sense of belonging. Upon retirement, individuals may experience a loss of daily social connections and a decreased sense of community, leading to feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Changes in daily routine: Retirement often involves a significant shift in daily routines and schedules. The absence of a regular work schedule can disrupt established patterns and leave individuals feeling unsure of how to structure their days or allocate their time.

Financial concerns: Retirement can bring financial changes and challenges. If individuals relied heavily on their work income for financial stability and security, a loss of role can lead to worries about financial resources, budgeting, and maintaining the desired lifestyle.

Emotional adjustment: The transition to retirement can evoke a range of emotions, including a sense of loss, anxiety, or uncertainty. Adapting to a new phase of life and adjusting to the changes in roles and responsibilities can be emotionally challenging.

While a loss of role in retirement can present difficulties, it’s important to note that it also offers opportunities for personal growth, exploration, and new experiences. This is covered in a different blog.

So, if you’re invited to a friend or colleague’s retirement party, Why not arrange a coffee or meet up with them in a few weeks’ time and check in on them to see how they’re adjusting.

If you would like help with your midlife transition or to find direction in the second half of life, why not read The Midlife Crisis Handbook or take a course at The Midlife Academy.