Happily Ever After: Older Retirees’ Satisfaction with Life Differs by Gender

The change in one’s life role after retirement is suspected to influence satisfaction with one’s life as a whole. A recent study investigated how satisfaction with various aspects of one’s life have different outcomes for women than for men in retirement.

Data from 593 participants of the Health and Retirement Study were used to study change in life satisfaction from pre-retirement to post-retirement. Men and women completed a baseline survey prior to their retirement, and then answered the same questions four years later. Only participants who had retired by the second timepoint and were ages 62 to 72 were included in this study. Survey questions included overall life satisfaction and satisfaction with three life domains: daily life and leisure activities, family life, and present financial situation. The researchers also accounted for demographic characteristics, physical health, and spousal employment status.

Overall life satisfaction on its own declined slightly for women, but not for men in post-retirement. Additionally, women reported lower satisfaction with their financial situation in post-retirement, compared to men. Satisfaction with leisure activities and family life, however, were similar for both genders. This suggests that one’s financial situation in retirement plays a role in overall satisfaction with life, particularly for women. In follow-up analyses, the researchers found that satisfaction with finances accounted for 34% of the difference between genders in overall life satisfaction.

The researchers attributed these findings to the wage gap between women and men for this generation, and the fact that women were less likely to have contribution plans with their employer. Less accumulated wealth would mean less financial security, which is likely reflected in women’s low satisfaction with their financial situations in retirement. This in turn influences their satisfaction with life overall. And as many previous studies have pointed out, overall life satisfaction has an important relationship with health and well-being. These findings may be useful for policy and in emphasizing financial planning for older adults.


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Calasanti T, Carr D, Homan P, and Coan V. Gender disparities in life satisfaction after retirement: The roles of leisure, family, and finances. The Gerontologist 2021;61(8): 1277-1286.


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