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Updated 11 March 2014

Beating depression after retirement

Many of us equate the word “retirement” with relaxation, holidays and sleeping late. But for some, it can be the start of depression.

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Depression after retirement is a common problem. Many people, especially those who have invested a lot in their careers and neglected other areas of their lives, suddenly feel emptiness and despair when they retire.

People whose sense of self esteem and worth is dependent on the work they do are particularly at risk. They may feel that they have lost their purpose for living, that they are worthless and do not have a role to play in society.

For people who are frequently in the spotlight, the problem may be more complicated. They often don’t realise the impact of attention and admiration on their sense of self worth. To be deprived of that can easily lead to feelings of rejection and emptiness.

Men appear to be more at risk as they are still regarded by many as primary breadwinners and their status in society is still measured to a great extent by their income and success.

Even though women have become more career orientated, many do not face a similar risk as their time is also occupied by other responsibilities such as raising a family and running the household.

How can you prevent depression after retirement?

  • Lead a balanced lifestyle and cultivate interests outside of work.
  • Don’t wait until retirement to plan what to do with your time. Plan ahead.
  • Prevent isolation by getting involved in activities where you can socialise and meet people with the same interests or in a similar position.
  • If you are worried that you may be suffering from depression, seek help as soon as possible.

How do I know when I am depressed?
Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in ordinary activities
  • Problems with sleep (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Decreased energy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Where to go for help
South African Depression & Anxiety Group (011) 783 1474
Mental Health Information Centre (021) 938 9229/ 9029
Suicide Crisis Line  0800 567 567 
SA Federation for Mental Health (011) 781 1852 

- (Ilse Pauw, Health24)

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