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  • By Tom Philips at March 1, 2022

How To Deal with Depression In Retirement

Whilst retirement doesn’t always lead to depression, many people who retire find themselves feeling lost, scared, anxious and for some, depressed. In the workplace, it’s common to hear ‘I can’t wait until I retire.’

However, for many people and up and down the country, retirement simply isn’t what they thought it would be. This leaves many people wondering how to deal with depression in retirement.

In fact, according to a study carried out by the Institute of Economic Affairs, people are 40% more likely to develop depression after they retire from work [1,2]. This accounts for an average of 5.7 years of lived disability for those aged 60 or over [3].

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell when someone is suffering from depression. There are a whole host of definitions when it comes to depression, as well as a long list of symptoms, social, mental and physical.

Depression often goes untreated for many years because it’s not always easy to identify, which can be especially true for older people, as they might not see as many people on a day to day basis than they used to before retiring.

Depression can also get confused with getting older and cognitive decline, which is why many people might be depressed without you even realising [4].

It is also no secret that people are living longer than they ever used to due to medical advances and technology. With this being said, it is more important than ever that we prioritise mental and physical health when it comes to the older population [1].

If you want more information on how to deal with depression in retirement, then the following information might be useful to you.

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Depression and Retirement – Is There a Link?

How to deal with depression in retirement is not an easy question to answer. Unfortunately, depression and mental health issues are one of the leading disabilities throughout the UK.

Depression plays a huge part in this, with being one of the leading mental health issues across the world.

Many studies have now highlighted that if a child experiences depressive episodes or symptoms in early childhood, then they are also much more likely to experience depression in later life and retirement, too.

Unfortunately, depression can go unnoticed for many years, and can also be misdiagnosed by many health professionals.

For this reason, many people go undiagnosed their whole life, and might only get diagnosed when they retire and have more time on their hands.

There are many reasons why people might be more likely to get depressed as they get older, some of which are discussed later on this page.

Unfortunately, depression and other mental health issues have a huge economic impact on society. This is because people with depression simply aren’t as productive as they could be, and also need a lot of intervention with healthcare services in order to get the help that they desperately need.

Unfortunately, the NHS is suffering from a lack of funding, which often impacts the mental health services across the country first. This is also another reason why someone might enter retirement still suffering from undiagnosed depression.

If you are wondering how to deal with depression in retirement, then speak to your local GP for help.

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How to Deal with Depression in Retirement – Understanding Symptoms of Depression

There are many signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to depression. However, the symptoms of depression can be confusing and can also differ a lot depending on your situation. [5]

It is also important to understand that not everyone with depression will present with any symptoms in public. Someone who’s the life and soul of the party can be experiencing depression, even if they do not look like they are.

However, there are a number of symptoms that you should look out for when it comes to depression in any demographic, not just those entering retirement. These symptoms can last for a few weeks, months or even years for some people.

When trying to understand how to deal with depression in retirement, there are also a number of psychological, physical and social symptoms to look out for, some of which are listed below for you.

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1. Psychological symptoms of depression

There are a number of psychological symptoms of depression to look out for when trying to understand how to deal with depression in retirement, although these can often be hardest to notice and recognise as they might always be the most obvious:

  • Low self esteem and low confidence
  • Feeling lost and hopeless
  • Often being tearful
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling easily irritated by other people or situations
  • General low mood and feeling sad
  • Having suicidal thoughts or intentions to harm yourself in any way
  • Lack of motivation to do things to see people
  • Feeling confused when it comes to making decisions, and feeling indecisive often
  • Feeling worried or anxious often
  • Struggling to get excited about things
  • Struggling to feel joyful
2. Physical symptoms of depression

When it comes to understanding how to deal with depression in retirement, there are also a number of physical symptoms to look out for, which might be easier to notice by someone else.

Below is a list of the most common physical symptoms to look out for when it comes to depression:

  • A general lack of energy or motivation to do things
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Lack of interest in eating food
  • A low sex drive
  • Feeling ill and sick often
  • If you’re a woman, changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Struggling to sleep, or struggling to get out of bed in the mornings
3. Social symptoms of depression

Finally, below is a list of the social signs and symptoms that you should look out for when it comes to understanding how to deal with depression in retirement.

Again, these might be easier to look out for, so it is important to understand and be able to recognise them in any friends or family members you might suspect to be suffering from depression:

  • Wanting to be alone more often
  • Struggling to make eye contact with people
  • Stopping going to social events or hobbies that they once enjoyed
  • Arguing with people more often

As you can see, there are lots of different symptoms when it comes to depression during retirement. Some are more severe than others, and some can last just a few weeks or even a number of years. If you think that someone you know is suffering from depression, then make sure that they seek the help that they need.

4. Severities of depression

There are different severities when it comes to depression which are important to understand when learning how to deal with depression in retirement.

Some people suffer from severe depression, whereas others only experience mild depression. How severe your depression is will dictate how severe your symptoms are, as well as what kind of treatment you need.

In addition to this, some symptoms can happen over night, whereas other symptoms might develop in stages over a prolonged period of time.

Your addition can either be classified by medical professionals as mild, moderate or severe. Someone with mild depression would be described as your depression having some impact on your daily life, but it does not take over your entire life.

If you or someone you know is suffering from moderate depression, then this will be having a significant impact on your or theirs daily life.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a severe form of depression, then this will be making daily life almost impossible to continue to do. You will most likely be unable to work or socialise with other people.

In addition to this, someone with a severe form of depression might also start to experience other mental health problems, such as psychosis, anxiety and paranoia. If you want more information on how to deal with depression in retirement, then speak to your local GP for help and support.

5. Types of depression

In addition to different severities of depression, there are also different types of depression. This includes major depression, persistent depression, perinatal depression and depression with psychosis.

Major depression is a form of depression which usually lasts a number of weeks and stops you from being able to enjoy your everyday life. This means that you will be struggling to sleep, work and socialise.

If you suffer from a persistent depression disorder, you will experience less severe symptoms, but these will often last for a number of months, if not years.

Perinatal depression can occur after someone gives births to a child, and is usually related to the trauma experienced during childbirth and pregnancy. This can last for a number of days, weeks or even months after you give birth and is a lot more common than you might think.

Finally, people with depression are a lot more likely to also experience psychosis. This means that you will not only suffer from depression, but you will also suffer from psychotic symptoms alongside your depression, such as hallucinations, delusions and confusion. This can make your treatment and recovery from your depression particularly complex and difficult.

If you think you are suffering from a type of depression and want more information on how to deal with depression in retirement, then speak to your local GP for help and support.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

How to Deal with Depression in Retirement – How Common Is Depression?

Despite the stigma surrounding depression, there are currently millions of people across the world who are currently suffering from depression.

In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that depression is actually the leading disability which is currently affecting people the most across the UK and the rest of the world [7,8].

In fact, the World Health Organisation states that approximately 14.6% of all adults from high income countries suffer from depression [8].

In addition to this, the average age people get depression in high income countries was estimated to be 25.7 years old [7,8]. However, this does not mean that depression doesn’t affect older people, too.

Reasons Why Someone Might be Depressed During Their  Retirement

There are many reasons why someone might get depressed as they enter or near retirement. Some of these reasons might include boredom, low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, stress or financial difficulty.

These causes are particularly important to understand when understanding how to deal with depression in retirement.

Some of these causes and triggers are explained further below. Whilst some people might be experiencing a number of these triggers, others might only be experiencing one of them in order to become depressed.

1. Boredom

One of the leading causes of depression in older people is boredom. Whilst this might seem like a common thing to experience, a lot of people are simply unprepared to feel as bored as they do when they enter retirement.

Most people look forward to retirement because they actively look forward to having less to do. The reality of working life is that it never stops, particularly if you work a full time job and also have other responsibilities such as having children or a family to look after.

For lots of people in full time employment, the years pass by so quickly you barely have time to stop and notice it. With hybrid working coming into effect during the Covid-19 pandemic, the workplace is slowly adapting to becoming a more accepting and relaxed environment.

However, many people nearing retirement did not have the luxury of hybrid working or working from home. Their lives were extremely busy, and working a nine to five often meant that they had little time for themselves.

Most people work their entire lives to retire, and are looking forward to a lot less work and commitment. However, when they enter retirement they realise that having nothing to do isn’t always a good thing.

Boredom can often lead to feeling lost and anxious, which in turn can then lead to depression.

2. Low Self Esteem

Most people get some form of satisfaction out of their jobs. When you work hard and that hard work is rewarded, it gives you a sense of confidence, which can lead to a high sense of self work and self-esteem.

However, when people retire they often find that because there is now less for them to do, their self-worth and self-esteem plummets.

They might find that because there is little for them to do, they don’t get the feeling of reward that they once did, and they might feel that no one needs them in the same way that they once did.

This is particularly true if you have children, as the chances are by the time you come to retire they will be all grown up and simply will not rely on you in the same ways that they once did.

3. Unrealistic expectations

People work their whole working lives to retire, and count down the days until they can retire and finally enjoy their time without the stress and responsibility that comes with a job.

Most people build up the idea of retirement so much in their head that their idea simply cannot match the reality of retirement. They create unrealistic expectations of how their retirement will be, and when it finally comes round they might feel depressed or let down.

After all, they have been working their whole life for this moment and for this time to themselves.

Many people picture themselves spending time with family and friends, or playing golf, going to the health club or even travelling the world. However, when it comes to it retirement is often a lot less idealistic than this.

These unrealistic expectations come from TV, film and the media, including things like magazines. They portray unrealistic images and expectations of how retirement looks. When in reality, many people struggle with the reality of retirement.

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4. Stress

Due to these unrealistic expectations, many people find themselves feeling stressed and anxious about how to spend their time during retirement.

Whilst you might think that retiring from work will mean that you no longer experience stress or stressful situations, often the opposite can be said.

Although you might no longer feel stressed about pleasing your boss or handing in that report on time, you might start to feel stressed about other things.

Lots of people start to feel stressed about the little things during retirement, such as family situations or tending to the house or garden.

Suddenly, your capacity for dealing with stressful situations reduces dramatically and even the smallest of things can make you feel anxious, stressed or worried.

You might also start to feel stressed about having little to do, or might start to feel stressed about your lack of purpose or direction. The truth is that there are lots of reasons why you might start to feel stressed during your retirement, which can often lead to depression and other mental health issues.

5. Spending more time at home

Most people dream of spending their retirement in their dream, forever home with their loving family. However, for many people across the UK this simply is not the case.

Not everyone gets to retirement age and is happy or comfortable with their situation at home. You might be struggling financially, unhappy in your marriage or unhappy with where you live or the state of your home.

During your retirement, you will spend more time than ever in your home with your family, so it is important that you feel happy and comfortable with where you live and who you live with. As discussed on our page about Equity Release and Divorce, divorce is becoming increasingly more common in later life.

6. Loneliness

When trying to understand how to deal with depression in retirement, it is important to remember that one of the leading causes of depression in older people is loneliness.

During the Covid-19 pandemic we saw more older people than ever being isolated from their loved ones.

However, many people simply do not realise that being retired can often be a very lonely and isolated place. When you retire, you have more time than ever to see family members and friends.

However, for them the world carries on and they might not have as much time for you as you might want them to.

This can be a very lonely place and situation to be in, which can often lead to depression and other mental health issues such as paranoia or anxiety.

7. Money troubles

Finally, it is dangerous and unhealthy to presume that once you retire you are going to be comfortable financially for the rest of your life. In fact, many people who retire are often worried about their financial situation, especially if they are only relying on their state pension to see them through.

If you are only relying on your state pension to see you through your retirement, then you might find yourself struggling to enjoy your retirement the way you thought you once would.

Financial struggles can easily lead to a whole host of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. If you are suffering from stress and anxiety due to money troubles during retirement, then you might want to consider releasing equity from your home.

As long as you qualify for equity release, you can choose to spend your equity money however you want to, whether that is on helping yourself, such as paying off your mortgage, or on other people. You can do so by getting in touch with the team at Equity Release Warehouse.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

How to Manage Depression During Retirement

Despite depression being common amongst those who are retired, there are actually a number of ways that you can easily manage your depression yourself.

However, if your depression is severe then it is always recommended that you seek help and advice from trained mental health professionals.

Below is a list of ways that you can easily manage your depression and its symptoms by making a few small changes. If you are committed to learning how to deal with depression in retirement, then try some of the following tips.

1. Transition into retirement over time

One way to manage your retirement and the changes that come with it is to transition into your retirement gradually, over a period of time. You do not have to stop work immediately and suddenly when you retire.

Instead, try transitioning gradually into your retirement by cutting back to part time first, to get used to the idea and reality of retirement before taking the plunge and retiring fully.

2. Create goals and ambitions

Being retired does not always mean that you have to slow down. Instead, why not create a list of goals and ambitions you want to achieve during your retirement.

You might want to do some home improvements, start a new hobby or make it your goal and ambition to travel and see more of the world.

In a sense, it doesn’t really matter how big or bold these goals or ambitions are, as long as you create them.

3. Stay physically active

One of the best ways you can spend your retirement is to prioritise your health and get more physically active. This will boost all of the right hormones in your body, and keep you feeling and looking the best you can.

In order to do this, make sure that you keep active by going on lots of walks and exercising regularly. It might be a good idea to join a local gym, leisure centre or health club to motivate you to keep active, as you’ll meet other like minded people there too.

There are a long list of health tips and advice available to you on the Equity Release Warehouse website.

4. Spend more time with family

You should try to spend more time with your family when you’re retired. You can offer to help to look after the grandchildren more often, which will keep you busy, help you to stay more active and fill you with more energy and joy.

5. Chase your dreams

Most people get to retirement age with a lost list of dreams and ambitions that they have never fulfilled. You might have always dreamt of learning how to sing, act or dance professionally. Likewise, you might have always wanted to learn how to paint, draw or play a musical instrument.

Whatever your dream has been, now is your time to go for it and fulfil your dreams and ambitions.

6. Create routine

Let’s face it, change can be scary for everyone. That is why it is really important to create routine and habit in your everyday life.

By creating a routine, you will feel in control and on top of your everyday life, and all the free time you now have during your retirement won’t seem as scary or unfamiliar as it might have without routine.

Create good habits such as exercising throughout the week, visiting friends and family members or even volunteering around your local area.

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What Should You Do if You’re Suffering from a Severe Form of Depression?

If you think you are suffering from a severe form of depression, then it might be time to get help from professionals. Getting professional help is one of the quickest and most productive ways of learning how to deal with depression in retirement.

If you are suffering from a severe form of depression, then you will be feeling depressed, lost, anxious, irritated and lonely for a prolonged period of time.

You will also struggle to sleep at night, or you might struggle to get up in the mornings. You will feel tired more often and will struggle to make small or big decisions easily. You might have also considered physical self harm [6].

If you are retired and experiencing any of the above symptoms, then you might be suffering from a moderate or severe form of depression. What caused your depression might not necessarily just have been your retirement, but it could very well have been a contributing factor.

If you think you are suffering from a moderate or severe case of depression, then it is important to seek help from trained professionals. They will be able to assess you for depression and other mental health conditions, and will work out the best treatment options available to you.

There are lots of different types of treatment options for those suffering from depression, which are listed and explained further below. If you want to learn how to deal with depression in retirement, then it might be worth trying some of the following types of treatment.

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How to Deal with Depression in Retirement – Treatment Options for Depression

Below, we outline ways to deal with depression in retirement, and potential treatment options for depression:

1. Combination therapy

Combination therapy is offered on the NHS and can be a huge help to those with depression. Combination therapy is when you combine a range of different treatment options to help combat your depression, and can be particularly helpful if you happen to be suffering from a severe form of depression.

For example, you can choose to combine certain forms of medication, such as antidepressants with therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy, both of which are explained further below.

2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (also known as CBT) is a highly popular form of therapy used for those with depression. During CBT you will work closely with your therapist to understand your depression a bit better, and will work on how your thoughts, feelings and behaviour all work together.

During CBT you will also work hard to uncover the root causes and triggers of your addiction, so that you can overcome these over time and navigate your future behaviour.

CBT acknowledges that events and situations in your past might still be controlling your thoughts, feelings and emotions today, and so works hard to improve your understanding of how your past might be influencing you today.

You can receive CBT over a period of a few weeks or even months, and can be offered in both a one to one and a group setting through the NHS.

3. Antidepressants

Whilst not everyone will require antidepressants in order to recover from their depression, they are recommended to those with moderate to severe forms of depression.

Antidepressants are taken orally, and help to treat the symptoms of depression, but do not help to tackle and overcome the root causes of your depression.

4. Psychodynamic psychotherapy

This type of therapy aims to help you to overcome any trauma you might have experienced in the past by allowing your mind to wander during sessions to help uncover any unconscious memories, thoughts or feelings.

This might help you to acknowledge the causes of your depression so that you can overcome them during later therapy sessions.

5. Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is a type of therapy that helps you to focus on your immediate relationships with family members and friends. This allows you to overcome any communication issues that might be contributing to your depression.

If you want more information on how to deal with depression in retirement, then speak to your local GP for advice and support.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

What Are The Other Causes of Depression?

Whilst many people who are retired might be suffering from depression, retirement might not always be the root cause of their depression, which is why it is important to understand the other causes of depression for many people.

Below is a list of other, common causes of depression:

  • Genetics
  • Changes to your hormones
  • Childhood trauma
  • Illness or experiencing physical pain on a daily basis
  • Bereavement
  • Drug and alcohol use

How to Deal with Depression in Retirement?

If you or someone you know is depressed, then the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it. Ideally, this would be a doctor or mental health professional, but can also be a friend or family member.

You should be open and honest with them about how you are feeling, and make sure that you end up speaking to a professional for advice and support. If you want more information on how to deal with depression in retirement, then you can do so by visiting your local GP and asking for their advice.

Please call our 24-Hour Helpline: 0330 058 1579

References

[1] Dietz T, Frey S and Kalof L (1987) Estimation with cross-national data: robust and nonparametric approaches. American Sociological Review 52, 380–390. [Google Scholar]

[2] Mccall WV and Kintziger KW (2013) Late-life depression: a global problem with few resources. Psychiatric Clinics of North America 36, 475–481. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

[3] Killinger LZ (2012) Diagnostic challenges in the older patient. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 20, 28. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

[4] Odone A, Gianfredi V, Vigezzi GP, Amerio A, Ardito C, d’Errico A, Stuckler D, Costa G; Italian Working Group on Retirement and Health. Does retirement trigger depressive symptoms? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci. 2021.

[5] NHS (2019). Symptoms – Clinical depression. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/

[6] MedlinePlus. Depression – overview. Updated March 23, 2020.

[7] WHO  (2021) Depression. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int [Free Full-text]

[8] Department of Health and Social Care  (2021) Suicide prevention in England: fifth progress report. Department of Health and Social Care. http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-health-and-social-care[Free Full-text]

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