Most people who retain steady careers throughout their lives spend a fair amount of time thinking about, and planing for, their eventual retirement. Hailed as a momentous and positive occasion, retirement is often considered in terms of its potential to allow for some much-needed relaxation and personal time following a lengthy dedication to one’s work. But a number of people may find that once they’ve retired, the sense of purpose with which they worked is absent, and this sudden absence may lead to feelings of depression and other negative emotions. To stay active and socially involved, some pensioners may choose to participate in local clubs or groups, but a study recently conducted at the University of Maryland suggests that going back to work may be just the thing for preserving mental health.
The study is unique in that while other academic efforts have linked working after retirement to the enjoyment of improved mental health, controls have not been in place to determine whether pre-existing health benefits were enjoyed by those who scored higher ostensibly as a result of the continued work. This study made the effort to incorporate precisely such controls, enabling the researchers to conclude that working after retirement does in fact improve mental health.
Among those who received a positive boost from their work, those employed in fields similar to those in which they spent their lifelong careers enjoyed the greatest mental health benefits. Though it may be difficult for some retirees to summon the energy to return to work after retirement, full workweeks and the comprehensive rigors of labor may not be necessary in order to reap rewards from staying employed. Further research on the parameters of prescription work for mental health may be necessary to determine what methodologies are most effective.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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