Australia’s population is ageing with retiree numbers due to peak in the next five to 10 years as “baby boomers” reach the official retirement age of 67, but what is less certain is how people will cope with life changes in retirement.
CDU Professor of Psychology Kate Moore said that while there was much information on preparing for financial security in retirement by increasing superannuation contributions, there was little focus on other aspects of retirement.
With considerable research background in the psychology of stress, coping and life change, Professor Moore said she hoped her new research work would help people better prepare for retirement.
“The transition from a 40-hour work week and associated social life to hours of free time each day is daunting for some, while for others it is the beginning of a time to fulfill life-long dreams,” Professor Moore said.
“Life is a series of domains including work, family and leisure. If you take a substantial element such as work out you need to fill that gap, and in a meaningful way.”
She said that although retirement was generally thought of as a time of gaining freedom, people also experienced losses and those losses could lead to anxiety and depression.
“Most people identify themselves with their jobs to a greater or lesser extent,” she said. “For example, it is not unusual when you ask someone what they do, their answer will be associated with their job: ‘I’m a…’ Often retirement can mean a large part of people’s identity is lost.”
Professor Moore said that the current work-driven society means that people may not have developed strong interests outside their work life. She suggests that people start thinking earlier about their work-life balance and the identity it creates for them.
“Just as people approaching retirement age might now put extra dollars into their super fund, they would be wise to also look at what to do with their time. Anecdotally we are finding that people who have broad interests are more fulfilled in retirement.”
Professor Moore and colleagues will soon conduct further research to discover more about the psychological impact of retirement.
“We want to try and understand what it means for people to retire and possibly offer strategies to assist people to make this life-changing transition,” she said.