Predictors of life satisfaction in retired physicians and spouses

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2003 Mar;38(3):134-41. doi: 10.1007/s00127-003-0610-y.


Background: With the current demographic changes, adjustment to retirement has become a major concern for physicians. Yet information on adjustment to retirement gathered from retired physicians is sparse. Information on physician spouses following retirement is currently not available. Therefore, we conducted a survey of a multi-disciplinary group of retired physicians and their spouses on adjustment to retirement.

Methods: A mail survey was sent to 1834 alumni who graduated from medical school prior to 1965. Responses were received from 795 (43 %) physicians and 455 spouses. Of the physicians, 678 indicated that they were retired or semi-retired. Life satisfaction was measured on a 9-point Likert scale.

Results: Levels of life satisfaction were high for both physicians and spouses. Approximately 88 % of both groups reported being mostly satisfied or better with their lives. Factors associated with better life satisfaction for physicians included better health, optimism, feelings of financial security, participation in activities and hobbies and a good sexual relationship. For spouses, good health, having a husband willing to help with chores, quality of relationships including sexual relationship and attending theatre or sporting events were associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. Spouses who had never worked reported higher levels of life satisfaction than spouses who had worked and were now retired. For changes in life satisfaction since physician retirement, predictors for both physicians and spouses were similar to those for life satisfaction. However, for physicians, both younger age and more years in retirement were independently associated with improved life satisfaction. Issues regarding loss of role and methods and reasons for retirement influenced satisfaction in the early retirees. For spouses, major challenges involved coping with changes in the marital relationship.

Conclusions: Physicians and their spouses reported high levels of life satisfaction. The factors predicting life satisfaction and change in life satisfaction following retirement differed for physicians and spouses. For physicians, life satisfaction and change in life satisfaction were affected by time since retirement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires