Stresses of Retirement Linked with Substance Abuse

retirementRetirement may seem like a dream come true, a time for rest and relaxation after a long career; and while that is true for many, for others however, retirement can be extremely difficult and in some cases more stressful than working. There is an old adage that says the number one killer is retirement, while it may seem hard to believe, many who leave the workforce are left feeling like they no longer have a purpose.

A new study has found that loneliness and financial pressures, which are often byproducts of retirement, can cause high levels of stress – driving retirees to substance abuse, MedicalXpress reports. When coupled with painful events, such as the death of loved ones and deteriorating health, it can be too much to handle.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the ten-year study was conducted by Prof. Peter A. Bamberger of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management and Prof. Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University’s Smithers Institute. Their findings come from an annual phone-based survey of 1,200 service, construction, and manufacturing workers aged 52-75.

“We found that the conditions under which people retired—whether they were pushed into it or it was something expected, which they planned for—had great bearing on alcohol and drug habits,” said lead researcher Professor Peter A. Bamberger. “The worst combination we found was among people who took early retirement from jobs they loved because they were terrified their companies were going under. Among all groups studied, this one exhibited the highest incidence of substance abuse.”

He added, “Even if an individual plans for retirement, he/she might not fully grasp the changes that must be made to his/her lifestyle. As a result, many people experience serious financial straits. Feeling unstable, lonely, and depressed, it isn’t surprising perhaps—but it is unfortunate—that many retirees look to alcohol or drugs for comfort.”

There are nearly three million Americans aged 55 and older who abuse alcohol, what’s more, by 2020 that number is likely to approach 6 million, according to the article. While alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among the elderly, drug abuse rates within that age bracket more than doubled between 2002 and 2013.

The findings appear in the Journal of Work, Aging and Retirement.