Missing Work After Retirement: The Role of Life Histories in the Retirement Adjustment Process

Gerontologist. 2015 Oct;55(5):802-13. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt169. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


Purpose of the study: Although the process of adjustment to retirement is often assumed to be related to experiences earlier in life, quantitative empirical insights regarding these relationships are limited. This study aims to improve our understanding of adjustment to the loss of the work role, by conceptualizing retirement as a multidimensional process embedded in the individual life course.

Design and methods: Analyses are based on panel data collected in 2001, 2006-2007, and 2011 among Dutch retirees (N = 1,004). The extent to which retirees miss aspects of the work role (money/income, social contacts, status) is regressed on information about earlier life experiences, resources, and retirement transition characteristics.

Results: The incidence of adjustment difficulties varies across dimensions. Predictors differ as well. A steep upward career path is associated with fewer financial adjustment difficulties but with more difficulties adjusting to the loss of status. Compared with continuously married retirees, divorced retirees without a partner are more likely to miss the social dimensions of work and those who repartnered are more likely to miss financial resources. The longer individuals are retired, the less likely they are to miss work-related social contacts.

Implications: Changing life course experiences might have important consequences for retirement processes of future retirees.

Keywords: Careers; Family; Health; Life course; Work role loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Netherlands
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires