195089 Transitioning from work into retirement: Explaining well-being outcomes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 12:30 PM

Esteban Calvo, PhD , School of Public Health, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, Boston, MA
Natalia Sarkisian, PhD , Department of Sociology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
INTRODUCTION: Much literature debates whether retirement transitions lead to increased or reduced well-being. We attribute the persistence of this controversy to the lack of theorizing on life course transitions and argue that the effects of such transitions can be either beneficial or detrimental depending on their characteristics such as speed (gradual/abrupt), perceived control (voluntary/forced), timing (earlier/later), and synchronicity with other life changes (focal/overlapping). METHODS: Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, we examine the effects of retirement on four dimensions of well-being: psychological, physical, economic, and social. RESULTS: We find that compared to abrupt retirement, gradual retirement is beneficial for health and income but it dampens social ties; furthermore, its effects disappear once the transition is completed. Perceived control is associated with an improvement in well-being, both at the outset of the transition and once it is completed. Both very early and very late transitions are detrimental for social ties during the transition and psychological well-being upon its completion, and later retirements are associated with a larger drop in income. Finally, the effects of synchronicity with other life changes depend on the nature of these changes. CONCLUSION: Although there is considerable research about retirement transitions, more attention to the specific characteristics of the transition is needed to help better understand its consequences for the well-being of older adults. Our findings suggest that retirement transitions can be both beneficial and detrimental to individuals' well-being depending on the dimension of well-being as well as on specific characteristics of the transition.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify key characteristics of work to retirement transitions. 2. Assess the effects of retirement on four dimensions of well-being: physical, psychological, economic, and social. 3. Discuss implications for life course theory.

Keywords: Aging, Well-Being

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Much of my work aims to understand what factors influence the well-being of older adults, and to evaluate policies that could contribute to improved well-being. Earlier version of the research I am presenting has been published in peer-reviewed journals and received significant media attention.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.