The Link Between Retirement & Depression

Updated January 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Retirement serves as a major lifestyle change. Transitioning from having a routine schedule to not working at all can demand some major adjustments. While retirement and depression do not necessarily go hand-in-hand, a person may be more vulnerable to experiencing depression if they do not go about managing retirement carefully.

Depression Can Affect Anyone

To communicate the link between retirement and depression, we must first briefly review depression as a mental health concern. It's worth noting that there are various degrees of depression. Furthermore, individuals can also experience depression for reasons that are not linked to retirement.

A Brief Look At Depression

Depression is clinically defined as "a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life". Contrary to certain misconceptions, there is a real difference between sadness and depression. While sadness comes and goes, depression is typically long-lasting, and the symptoms of depression can be more serious and impactful in a person's day-to-day life.

People who are struggling with depression tend to withdraw from the company of others, struggle to concentrate, and even experience feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and mood swings. Additional symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to, extreme fluctuations in weight, trouble sleeping at night, and thoughts of suicide.

“If you are thinking about suicide, considering harming yourself or others, feeling that any other person may be in any danger, or if you have any medical emergency, you must immediately call the emergency service number (1-800-273-8255 in the US and 0800-689-5652 in the UK) and notify the relevant authorities. Seek immediate in-person assistance.” 

Treatment Options For Depression

Suitable treatment methods for depression can vary depending on the individual, the intensity of their depression, and many other factors. However, the available treatment options for depression are generally therapy and medication.

There are numerous therapies used to help patients overcome depression; cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are a few of many examples. In some cases, patients may be prescribed medication. Ultimately, the treatment method will depend on what is best for the particular patient.

The Link Between Retirement and Depression

Many people look forward to retiring in their older years and enjoying a life free of work. Still, work does provide many of the components that often contribute to individual happiness. Some examples of those components include routine, purpose, and connections with other human beings. While there are still opportunities to experience these components during retirement, it may require more effort than people may be aware of. 

In many cases, depression occurs during retirement when there is a lack of preparation, as documented by the American Psychological Association. Retirement is a major lifestyle change, as previously noted, and individuals entering this new phase of life may need to have a plan. Whether it's traveling or joining a recreational class, retired individuals need to have something to fill the gap that work will inevitably leave behind. Staying connected to other people and developing somewhat of a routine are lifestyle choices that can positively enrich the lives of retirees.

The Nature Of One's Retirement

The nature of an individual's retirement is another factor that impacts the link between retirement and depression. While some people willingly retire after decades of working, not everyone has this luxury. Some individuals are forced into retirement for diverse reasons such as health issues, employment layoffs, and more. People who are forced to retire are more likely to experience depression than those who retire on their own accord.

If a person is pushed into retirement before they are financially ready, this too can lead to depression. Some retirees are able to live off of pensions or passive income, but others are not as fortunate. Individuals who find themselves in retirement before they are financially prepared may want to earn income in order to support themselves. That’s because financial problems are one of the most common catalysts for depression. The gig economy, freelancing on sites such as Upwork, and even taking on a part-time job are some ways that retired individuals can still earn a living.

Avoiding Depression During Retirement

Depression Can Affect Anyone

Ideally, retirement is a time in someone's life when they are able to enjoy themselves and experience all that the world has to offer. However, this can be a challenging feat for someone experiencing depression. These people are often just trying to find the motivation to do the basics such as getting out of bed in the morning. Still, there are steps they can take to alleviate symptoms. 

Socialize With Others

Habitual isolation may not be healthy. It can be particularly dangerous during a time when someone is adjusting to a new phase of their life, such as retirement. Thus, socializing with other people is one way to avoid depression during retirement.

There are a multitude of ways for retired individuals to socialize with other people. Volunteering, taking a recreational class, and joining a fitness center are just some of the many available options. Studies have proven that socializing with others reduces feelings of loneliness, improves overall health, and boosts lifespans. 

Have Some Type of Routine

For most people, routine is good. It can help provide a sense of purpose and predictability. In retirement, the need for routine may increase since the routine of work has been removed. This doesn't mean that retired individuals must plan every waking hour of their retirement, but having certain events or activities planned throughout the week can be beneficial.

Don't Be Afraid To Explore Various Types Of Work

Even if you have savings to live off of during your retirement years, looking into the various types of available work can be beneficial. As stated before, freelance work and the gig economy can serve as sources of income if you have a particular skill that you can market. Furthermore, embracing more nontraditional forms of work can be eye-opening and provide new insight as well as additional income.

Stay In Good Shape

Staying in good shape can be advantageous to anyone, regardless of whether they are retired. However, exercise has been proven to help people who are retired, both physically and mentally. This doesn't mean that you must do hardcore workouts several times per day. Staying in good shape can be as simple as taking the occasional Zumba class, walking in the park a few times per week, or even stretching each morning.

There Is No Shame In Asking For Help

Adjusting to retirement isn't always easy. If you're not around other people who are retiring, or if a support system is missing from your life, then this can add additional challenges to the transition. Seeking help is one of the bravest things you can do. Taking steps to improve the quality of your life requires strength and courage.

Not everyone is comfortable opening up about their feelings and struggles in an in-person setting, though. If the idea of therapy is intimidating, an online counseling session may be a better alternative. The internet-based therapeutic environment makes some people feel safer when it comes to discussing mental health concerns. Plus, this form of therapy tends to be more convenient since it can be accessed from home. 

Researchers have conducted extensive research into the effects of online therapy on individuals experiencing symptoms of depression. One recent study showed that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) in particular is effective in reducing symptoms of both anxiety and depression. 


Everyone goes through difficult times, and that's okay. Tough times do not define us. The ability to stand up, keep pushing, and be receptive to help when it's necessary is what builds fortitude and character. No matter who you are or what you may be facing, whether it's retirement struggles, depression, or another matter altogether, it's critical for you to know that you are not alone. You can contact BetterHelp anytime, anywhere. 

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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