Thursday, November 18, 2010
Retirement and Depression
Betty Freidan in her excellent book The Fountain of Age (published in 1993) indicates that depression can be a natural response to the loss of power and purpose. Losing one’s sense of these characteristics is often associated with retirement
Simone de Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher who died in 1986. One of her many books focuses on The Coming of Age (published in 1972.) Most of the key ideas in this post are taken from that book. She comments that many gerontologists agree that being without work and having feelings of uselessness during the last twenty years of one's life is psychologically and sociologically very difficult. She suggests that retirees have two requirements, to rest and to live decently. Living in poverty, especially under current economic conditions, raises the question of how many of us will have the resources to rest and live decently and therefore may become vulnerable to depression.
Gradual retirement, sometimes called bridge retirement, is better than a “sudden chop.” I can personally confirm this. Since I began my struggle against mandatory retirement 5 years ago I have been teaching only two classes. It effects my paycheck and pension contributions but it is a lot more comfortable than teaching a full load of four courses. I am, however, somewhat concerned with my likelihood of living decently after I retire.
In summary, retirement as a radical break cutting us off from our past, may force us to adapt to a new status that on the negative side, can lead to “a lasting state of depression” If you are retired or close to retirement the following questions may be useful.
Some Depression Questions
1. Depressed Mood
Do you often feel "sad" or "empty" or may cry frequently.
2. Decreased Interest or Pleasure
Do you have markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, daily activities?
3. Weight Changes
Do you have significant changes in weight when not attempting to gain or lose weight? (A gain or loss of 5% or more in a month)
4. Sleep Disturbances
Do you have a hard time getting to sleep or sleeping too much?
5. Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation
Do you find yourself either agitated and restless or physically slowed down when you are moving?
Do you often feel deep fatigue or a loss of energy?
7. Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt
Do you feel that you have no value or inappropriately guilty about things you have no control over?
8. "Brain Fog"
Do you have a diminished ability to think, concentrate or make decisions?