How to Deal With Depression After Retirement

Coping with depression after retiring

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

While it might seem like retirement should be a time when you can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor, it can sometimes lead to feelings of depression instead. Why does this occur and what can you do about it?

Reasons for Depression After Retirement

For many people, work brings a sense of usefulness and purpose. There is a lifelong desire to be a good provider for one's family, an achiever and a useful part of society.

The person's sense of self is tied up very strongly in what he or she does for a living; and, with retirement, a sense of loss can occur, leaving a person struggling to understand who they are and what their value is.

Another reason for depression is the fact that that the dynamics at home are changing. Where one or both spouses may have worked out of the home and been away a significant portion of the day, now both spouses may be spending more time at home together. Roles may be changing and a greater need for joint decision-making may be occurring. Until a new equilibrium is attained, there may be conflicts as each spouse adjusts to the new situation.

Finally, retirement may be seen as a reminder of the fact that the person is aging, with fears about death, sickness, and disability arising.


Watch Now: 7 Most Common Types of Depression

How to Cope

Many experts suggest the following tips to help new retirees make an easier transition into the next stage of their lives:

  • Stay active. Do things to keep both mind and body active such taking a class, participating in sports, doing volunteer work or even taking a part-time job.
  • Strengthen social and family ties. Visit your kids or offer to babysit your grandkids. Make time to participate in activities with friends. Visit your local community center and seek out activities that you enjoy so you can make new friends.
  • Find a new sense of purpose. Maybe you can do volunteer work related to your former career? Or maybe you've always cared deeply about a particular cause? Finding a new way to provide meaning for your life will restore the sense of purpose that you once found through work.
  • Fulfill your dreams. Maybe you've always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument or perhaps to travel? Now is the perfect time. You have the freedom and you are still young enough to enjoy it. Go for it!
  • Develop a schedule. When you are used to planning your entire day around your job, it can be quite disconcerting to go to having a totally unstructured day. Instead, set up a schedule for yourself, creating set times when you will do work around the house, exercise or do volunteer work.

What If Your Depression Is More Serious?

If you're finding that your sadness just isn't going away or it is starting to seriously interfere with your life, it is possible that you need to seek out professional help for major depressive disorder. Symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

  • Feeling sad, depressed or just empty
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy doing
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Having problems getting to sleep or waking up in the morning
  • Having changes in appetite or weight
  • Having problems with thinking, making decisions or remembering things
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling worthless or excessively guilty
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Thinking about death or suicide

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If you are experiencing several of these symptoms, then it's a good idea to see your family doctor for evaluation. He will ask you some questions and do some testing to determine if your depression symptoms might be due to some other cause, such as medical condition or medications that you are taking. If these things can be ruled out, then you may have depression.

If you do have depression, there are several very effective treatments, such as antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and counseling, which can help you get back on an even keel.

Your doctor may opt to prescribe medication for you, or he may choose to refer you to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for assistance. Generally, the best treatment for depression will be a combination of medication and therapy or counseling, but your doctor will work with you to determine what is best for you.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Osborne JW. Psychological Effects of the Transition to RetirementCanadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy. 2006;46(1):45-58.

  2. MedlinePlus. Depression - overview. Updated March 23, 2020.

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.