The problem with having to retire

In YourLifeChoices’ 2018 Insights Survey, 25 per cent of respondents said they retired because they were unable to find work. We asked relationship psychologist Jo Lamble about the possible implications in terms of mental health and self-worth.


A: We all cope better when we have choice, so having to retire because you are unable to find work is much harder than deciding for yourself that the time has come.

So many of us tie our self-worth to the work we do. We feel fulfilled by a good day at the office. Our weekly or monthly pay packets serve to reinforce the feeling that we have a purpose. So if we retire before we are ready, we can lose our sense of purpose. Our self-worth can decrease and we can become vulnerable to depression. Signs of depression include feeling hopeless and lacking in confidence, motivation and energy. We can become irritable and negative, and our mood can drop significantly.

So what should you do if you have no choice but to retire due to an inability to find work? First, it’s important to give yourself time to grieve. You need to grieve the loss of your previous sense of purpose and the daily routine that made sense for so long. You need to grieve the loss of daily interaction with your workmates and the regular income. You need to grieve the loss of confidence and self-worth.

But then you need to find new ways to fill your days and new ways to create a sense of purpose. Perhaps you’ll become a mentor for younger workers or maybe you’ll join a community group that helps others. You might also need to think way outside the box in terms of how to structure your week.

Finally, it’s a good idea to talk to other retirees or a counsellor because suffering in isolation increases the risk of depression.

Jo Lamble is a Clinical Psychologist who has been in private practice for more than 25 years. She sees individuals, couples and groups, and specialises in parenting and relationship issues.

If you have a question for Jo, please send it to [email protected]

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