Honeymoons and joint lunches: effects of retirement and spouse's employment on depressive symptoms

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2004 Sep;59(5):P233-45. doi: 10.1093/geronb/59.5.p233.


With hypotheses derived from a life course perspective in conjunction with life event stress and role theories, we examine whether a spouse's employment and length of retirement affect a person's postretirement depressive symptoms and whether such effects differ by gender. Analyses use pooled data from Waves 1-4 of the Health and Retirement Survey, using a subsample of married individuals who either remained continuously employed over time or completely retired since the Wave 1 interviews (N = 2,695). Recently retired men seem to be negatively affected by their spouses' continuous employment when compared with men whose wives were continuously not employed. In contrast, spouses' joint retirement has a beneficial influence on both recently retired and longer-retired men. However, for recently retired men, the positive effect of wives' retirement seems to be contingent on spouses' enjoyment of joint activities. Among women, effects of spouses' employment occur only among very recently retired wives (0-6 months). These wives report more depressive symptoms if their spouses were already nonemployed prior to wives' retirement. These results demonstrate the complexity of retirement adaptation processes and suggest that marital context plays an important role in retirement well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Retirement*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spouses*