IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Retirement and mental health: Analysis of the Australian national survey of mental health and well-being


  • Butterworth, Peter
  • Gill, Sarah C.
  • Rodgers, Bryan
  • Anstey, Kaarin J.
  • Villamil, Elena
  • Melzer, David


Nation-wide research on mental health problems amongst men and women during the transition from employment to retirement is limited. This study sought to explore the relationship between retirement and mental health across older adulthood, whilst considering age and known risk factors for mental disorders. Data were from the 1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being, a cross-sectional survey of 10,641 Australian adults. The prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders was analysed in the sub-sample of men (n=1928) and women (n=2261) aged 45-74 years. Mental health was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Instrument. Additional measures were used to assess respondents' physical health, demographic and personal characteristics. The prevalence of common mental disorders diminished across increasing age groups of men and women. Women aged 55-59, 65-69, and 70-74 had significantly lower rates of mental disorders than those aged 45-49. In contrast, only men aged 65-69 and 70-74 demonstrated significantly lower prevalence compared with men aged 45-49. Amongst younger men, retirees were significantly more likely to have a common mental disorder relative to men still in the labour force; however, this was not the case for retired men of, or nearing, the traditional retirement age of 65. Men and women with poor physical health were also more likely to have a diagnosable mental disorder. The findings of this study indicate that, for men, the relationship between retirement and mental health varies with age. The poorer mental health of men who retire early is not explained by usual risk factors. Given current policy changes in many countries to curtail early retirement, these findings highlight the need to consider mental health, and its influencing factors, when encouraging continued employment amongst older adults.

Suggested Citation

  • Butterworth, Peter & Gill, Sarah C. & Rodgers, Bryan & Anstey, Kaarin J. & Villamil, Elena & Melzer, David, 2006. "Retirement and mental health: Analysis of the Australian national survey of mental health and well-being," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(5), pages 1179-1191, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:5:p:1179-1191

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
    2. Paul R. Jackson & Philip E. Taylor, 1994. "Factors Associated with Employment Status in Later Working Life," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 8(4), pages 553-567, December.
    3. Jungmeen E. Kim & Phyllis Moen, 2002. "Retirement Transitions, Gender, and Psychological Well-Being," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 57(3), pages 212-222.
    4. Ezzy, Douglas, 1993. "Unemployment and mental health: A critical review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 41-52, July.
    5. Mark Wooden & Simon Freidin & Nicole Watson, 2002. "The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)Survey: Wave 1," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 35(3), pages 339-348, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Abid A. Burki & Mushtaq A. Khan & Sobia Malik, 2015. "From Chronic Disease to Food Poverty: Evidence from Pakistan," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 54(1), pages 17-33.
    2. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2015. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 129-142.
    3. Hudson, Eibhlin & Barrett, Alan, 2013. "Peer Groups, Employment Status and Mental Well-being among Older Adults in Ireland," IZA Discussion Papers 7586, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Dang, Thang, 2017. "The Causal Effect of Retirement on Health Services Utilization: Evidence from Urban Vietnam," MPRA Paper 79693, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Zhang, Xiaohui & Zhao, Xueyan & Harris, Anthony, 2009. "Chronic diseases and labour force participation in Australia," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 91-108, January.
    6. Eric Delattre & Richard K. Moussa & Mareva Sabatier, 2019. "Health condition and job status interactions: econometric evidence of causality from a French longitudinal survey," Health Economics Review, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 1-18, December.
    7. Ann Barbara Bauer & Reiner Eichenberger, 2018. "Worsening Workers' Health by Lowering Retirement Age: The Malign Consequences of a Benign Reform," CREMA Working Paper Series 2018-02, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    8. Perera, G. & Di Gessa, G. & Corna, L. M. & Glaser, K. & Stewart, R., 2017. "Paid employment and common mental disorders in 50–64-year olds: analysis of three cross-sectional nationally representative survey samples in 1993, 2000 and 2007," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 84652, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Hessel, Philipp, 2016. "Does retirement (really) lead to worse health among European men and women across all educational levels?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 19-26.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:5:p:1179-1191. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.