Structural Social Support and Changes in Depression During the Retirement Transition: "I Get by With a Little Help from My Friends"

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Oct 16;75(9):2040-2049. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbz126.


Objectives: This study evaluated whether (a) retirement was associated with increased depressive symptoms, (b) four sources social support were associated with decreased depressive symptoms, and (c) whether the relationship between retirement and depressive symptoms varied across four sources social support.

Method: Health and Retirement Study data were used to assess whether four measures of structural support moderated the association between transitioning to full retirement (relative to remaining in full-time work) and symptoms of depression.

Results: Results from two-stage mixed-effects multilevel models indicated (a) on average retirement was associated with a small but significant increase in depressive symptoms after adjusting for preretirement social support, (b) on average, social support not associated with changes in symptoms of depression, but (c) social support from friends moderates the association between retirement and symptoms of depression such that at low levels of social support, retirement was associated with a sizeable increase in depressive symptoms, but this association decreased as level of social support from friends increased.

Discussion: Results suggest people with low levels of social support may benefit from actively cultivating friendships in retirement to help mitigate some of deleterious effects of retirement.

Keywords: Depression; Friendship; Retirement; Social support.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Depression* / prevention & control
  • Depression* / psychology
  • Depression* / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Psychosocial Support Systems*
  • Retirement / psychology*
  • Social Support