Mental health in retirement

If stress, anxiety and depression get the better of you there are some coping mechanisms which can help you prepare for these in retirement.

Retirement is a major milestone that affects our finances, our social interactions and our daily routine. And as we get older, we start to become more aware of our physical health. All of these things can impact our mental health, which can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. However, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself for retirement, and potentially limit any negative impact on your mental health.

How to mentally prepare for retirement

Preparing for retirement effectively can start years before you reach retirement age. So give yourself plenty of time to consider the following steps, and try not to leave things until the last minute.

1. Acknowledge that things will change

You might feel a sense of loneliness, since you won’t be seeing your colleagues or customers every day. You might experience moments of boredom, as you’ll have fewer things that need doing and no one to hold you to account other than yourself. And you could feel a sense of worthlessness if you took pride in your work.

These are all perfectly normal feelings that anyone in retirement may experience, and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm.

2. Plan ahead to calm the mind

Prepare your finances so you’re adequately prepared for a change in income. Think about how it might impact your lifestyle. Consider your pension options, including whether you might prefer to take out a lump sum, drawdown a regular income, or buy an annuity. Think about your personal goals, and whether you might like to spend your time decorating the house, learn a new skill, or spend more time with the grandchildren. And consider joining social communities so that you can speak with people who may be at a similar life stage to you.

Planning ahead can be an effective way of reducing stress and anxiety.

3. Ease yourself into retirement

Rather than suddenly moving from working full time to not working at all, you could consider gradually reducing your hours over time. For example, you could ask to work a four-day week during the last two years before retiring. If the drop in income impacts your finances, you could consider supplementing your income with your pension (so long as you’re 55 or older).

Easing yourself in can help alleviate the potential shock and disorientation that may accompany a sudden retirement.

4. Combine your pensions

If you’ve collected multiple pensions during your working life, you may want to consider combining them into one new plan. Not only will it be easier to manage your money, but you could also save a significant amount in excess fees. With everything in one place, you’ll have a better understanding of your finances and may find it easier to make important financial decisions.

PensionBee is a leading online pension provider, specialising in combining old pensions into one. Learn more about combining your pensions with PensionBee.

You can read more about all these steps in our article, Preparing For Retirement Emotionally.

Health in retirement

There’s no escaping the fact that mental and physical health tends to deteriorate at a faster rate as we grow older. Depression affects around 25% of people over 65, according to the NHS. And 36% of people aged 65-74 have a limiting long-standing illness, according to Age UK. So it’s important to look after your own health, as well as the health of your finances.

Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the most common challenges retired people face, particularly those who live alone. Without a job, there’s no necessity to leave the house each day or talk to colleagues or customers. And if your physical health begins to deteriorate, you may find yourself less able or willing to leave your home as often as you once did. If steps aren’t taken to remain social, this may lead to feeling isolated.

For support with loneliness, consider reading this guide from the NHS.

Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health challenges faced by people of all ages. It can become particularly noticeable during times of stress, such as retirement. Anxiety can manifest itself as mental symptoms (such as being unable to relax) as well as physical symptoms (including headaches and chest pains).

For support with anxiety, consider reading this guide from the NHS.

Depression

Depression is another potential cause for concern during retirement. It can stem from a wide range of things, including feeling a lack of purpose or experiencing a loss of income. As we’ve seen, it’s estimated to affect 25% of people over 65. For many people, depression can be managed by making lifestyle changes and seeking council from friends or family. However, in some cases, depression can be a particularly debilitating experience that requires professional help.

For support with depression, consider reading this guide from the NHS.

Dementia

Dementia (a cause of memory loss) can affect people at any age, but is more common in older people. 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. So while it’s unlikely to affect you from retirement age (currently 66), it may become an increased risk later in retirement.

For support with dementia, consider reading this guide from the NHS.

How to improve mental health

Being aware of your mental health in retirement is important. Thankfully, as mental health awareness increases, many more resources are available online for free. Below are some common suggestions as well as links to reputable mental health resources.

  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Join communities of interest
  • Reduce commitments if you’re feeling overwhelmed
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise
  • Be accepting and kind to yourself
  • Ask for help if you need support

Mental health resources

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

Last edited: 10-08-2021

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