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MHIRC: Health After The Workplace - Is Retirement A Health Hazard For Men?

This editorial written in 2008 by Dr Anthony Brown, Adjunct Fellow of MHIRC, Western Sydney University, discusses the key factors that contribute to a healthy and happy retirement as well as the potential challenges faced during the transition from the workplace into retirement.

 

Introduction

There is strong evidence to support that men's self-identity often comes from paid employment. If men feel valued at work and the work they do is fulfilling or if they are forced to retire early, retirement may be detrimental to their health. When men leave the workforce and begin retirement, they may feel a sudden loss of identity, and work related social ties may be severed.

In the discussion paper Keeping The Balance Older Men and Healthy Ageing (2001) older men were asked what they considered to be positive contributors to their health and well-being and how they achieved it. A few of the answers were:

  • Volunteering can give men a new purpose and meaning in their lives. One participant in this discussion responded: "...we all should belong to something from which we get no financial gain but (which) gives us an opportunity to help other people in some way. "
  • Unpaid work Working at home or in the community.
  • Support From Good Relationships Receiving support from family (partners), friends and people in the community. The participants felt that giving and receiving support was important for improving health and well-being.
  • Social Networks Joining a Men’s Shed or a hobby group may contribute to better health.
  • Maintaining good physical health through exercise, a good diet, not-smoking and through responsible use of alcohol and other drugs (prescription and illicit).
  • Good mental health through involvement in groups, engagement with family, friends and community as well as cultivating interests and hobbies. One member stated that "...the key to well-being is a positive attitude. When you have a positive outlook on life it makes a big difference to your overall health and well-being".

Overview

Dr Anthony Brown completed his PhD in 2014 researching the topic of perceptions and expectations of retirement for men, with focus on men who felt positive about their retirement and had dealt well with their new roles and identities.

This editorial addresses men's health after the workplace. For many men work is their identity, they feel productive, valued, they have a real purpose in life and social connections. For this reason some men may find retirement a difficult transition due to feelings of loss of their identity. Social isolation following retirement is also a potential threat to good health and well-being.

Some men look forward to retirement anticipating times of freedom and activity, while others may be more concerned with their financial situation and keeping sufficiently occupied. A "successful" retirement is commonly determined by how pre-retirement expectations are met. If positive expectations of retirement are not fulfilled due to for example unexpected illness, disability or dissatisfaction with social supports it may lead to dissatisfaction with retirement. A couple of suggestions to achieve a healthy and happy retirement may be to:

  • maintain and form new social networks
  • keep busy - do something you like with other people, perhaps join a men’s shed, gardening club or hobby club.

Many men find this sort of social support in Men’s Sheds, of which there are nearly 1,000 in the country to date and the idea is spreading worldwide.

Men who are financially stable are more likely to have the resources to maintain good health and social connections in retirement than those who are not. Men further up the social ladder are in a better position to cope both with challenges of the transition into retirement as well having the financial ability to meet more pre-retirement expectations.

A healthy and happy retirement is partly due to social factors such as income and social support. The World Health Organisation recognises these factors, among several others, as the social determinants of health.

Resources Available

 

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