Does How You Retire Affect Your Satisfaction with Life?

There are a number of routes to retirement, both voluntary and involuntary, and involuntary retirement can be for either organizational or health reasons. Recently, researchers in Denmark examined the relationship between different types of retirement and retirees’ satisfaction with life. In their study of workers in Dutch multinational corporations and the Dutch government, they surveyed the 1,388 individuals who had entered retirement since the start of the study six years earlier. For the purposes of this study, retirement was defined as receiving a pension without any additional work wages.

Satisfaction with life had been measured at the beginning of the study, when all participants were still in the workforce, and it was the changes in these satisfaction with life scores six years later (after retirement) that were examined to determine how they were impacted by type of retirement.

When the researchers examined the impact of a voluntary choice to retire, they found that this had a positive impact on satisfaction with life scores. The life satisfaction scores for voluntary retirees remained nearly the same as the individuals’ scores six years earlier, when they were working. On the other hand, involuntary retirement was found to have a negative impact. When the researchers compared involuntary retirement due to organizational reasons and due to health reasons, they found that forced retirement due to health limitations had a much stronger negative impact. Interestingly, those who had continued to work six years after the start of the study also showed a decline in their life satisfaction scores, though not to the extent of those who had involuntarily retired.

In addition to the impact of type of retirement, a number of other factors were associated with a lower satisfaction of life score. Never having been married, negative health changes compared to six years earlier, and divorce or loss of a spouse all had a negative effect. On the other hand, years of education, having had managerial or supervisory status at work, and wealth were all associated with higher satisfaction with life scores. Having improved health compared to six years earlier also had a positive effect.

This research suggests that attention needs to be paid to the route through which individuals are entering retirement, and that particular attention needs to be paid to those individuals who enter this phase of their lives involuntarily. Although financial and health-related stresses might be unavoidable for some individuals, hopefully interventions can be designed to address this drop in satisfaction with life for those individuals.


Hershey DA and Henkens K. Impact of different types of retirement transitions on perceived satisfaction with life. The Gerontologist (2014); 54 (2): 232–244.


Self-Fulfilling ProphecyHow Perceptions of Aging Affect Our Later Years

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