Unmet Expectations About Retirement and Depression in Late Life: Differences by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Education, and Birth Cohort

Leah Abrams , University of Michigan
Neil Mehta, University of Michigan

The 2008 Great Recession affected American’s retirement timing, but it remains unclear how unfulfilled expectations about retirement timing influence psychological well-being. This study examines how unmet expectations about working at age 62 relate to subsequent depressive symptoms. We use longitudinal data from 10,557 adults ages 51+ in the Health and Retirement Study (1994-2014). Expected probability and the association between expectations and reality were significantly lower for racial minorities compared to whites, low education compared to high, and pre-baby-boomers compared to baby-boomers. Those who were unexpectedly not working experienced significantly higher depressive symptoms compared to those who correctly expected to be retired (Unsure: IRR=1.16 p=0.024, Very likely: IRR=1.19, p=0.010). This association was slightly attenuated after adjusting for declines in functioning and was larger in men than women. Our findings indicate that unexpected continued employment does not harm psychological well-being, but earlier than expected retirement may result in higher depressive symptoms.

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 Presented in Session 6. Health & Mortality & Aging