Dealing with the fallout from having to retire

Self-worth and mental health can take a battering when we have no choice.

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



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    27th Apr 2018
    I was made redundant at 57, and never had a proper job after that (I am a qualified social worker with 30 years experience.) The way I was pushed out was brutal, and not helped by Centrelink's insistence that I go for job interviews. I was clearly in no state to do that. It too three years of fighting back, crying, and a major depression before I was able to live normally again. Well, relatively speaking, as for the next five years I cared for my partner who was dying from a terminal illness. Never worked again. Live on the Age Pension, and am happy to do my own thing now. It was soul-destroying at the time
    27th Apr 2018
    Good on you Patti. I, too, was forced to retire when I was 57, and that redundancy coincided with my partner being diagnosed with a neurological degenerative condition. I was fortunate to be able to get a Carer Pension after 12 months on Newstart, and he was on a Disability Pension. After 6 years I was unable to care for him any more and he went into residential care a few months before I was eligible for an Age Pension, so I went back on Newstart for that short period of time. I was never able to obtain paid employment again despite tertiary qualifications, and that is indeed soul destroying.. After my partner died I thought I was coping OK but about 3 years later I realized I wasn't - no doubt a combination of the caring role, the loss of my partner, and the job situation. I sought counselling, and was fortunate to obtain really good support and help. I too am now rebuilding my life in a good way.
    Chris G
    27th Apr 2018
    Bravo Patti!
    27th Apr 2018
    I didn't have to retire but I could stop work at 52. I had a real problem afterwards though , no matter what I did I couldn't stop.....laughing.
    27th Apr 2018
    A comedian Tib, no less surely ? Who gets the most laughs - He who laughs hardest, laughs the longest.
    30th Apr 2018
    I retired at 55 and now wi st I had so years earlier as it is waste of one's life trading one's time for money.

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