Retired individuals are at an increased risk for depressive symptoms compared with employed individuals, according to data from a 10-year cross-lagged analysis published in Psychiatry Research.

Investigators abstracted data from 6 waves of the Health and Retirement Study for 10 total years of participant data (n=6584). The 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 waves were selected specifically such that analyses could be extrapolated to the modern workforce. All participants in the Health and Retirement Study are over the age of 50 years. The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale was used to assess depressive symptoms in participants, with higher numeric scores indicating worse symptomatology. Sociodemographic variables including age, sex, years of education, race, functional status, and household income were captured in each wave by self-report. Cross-lagged analyses were conducted to capture the association between retirement status and depression. Individuals included in the analyses had self-reported retirement or employment status for all 6 waves.

Individuals who had complete employment data across each wave were significantly younger, had more years of education, were more likely to be men, had better functional status, reported fewer depressive symptoms in the initial wave, and were more likely to be employed compared with those who had incomplete employment data (all P <.001). Among the analytic sample, 60% of subjects reported employment and 40% self-identified as retired. The mean (standard deviation) Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale score was 0.95 (0.03) across the total cohort. Cross-lagged modeling indicated a significant negative association between employment in each wave and depressive symptoms in each subsequent wave. Higher levels of depression symptoms were associated with increased risk for retirement (P =.001). Additionally, employment status displayed a lagged effect on depression, with retirement preceding higher levels of depression 2 years after initial retirement status report (P <.001). No moderating effect was observed for sex.

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These findings support the perception of retirement as a potential risk factor for depression in older adults. Likewise, existing depressive symptoms may be predictive of retirement. Clinicians must remain vigilant when observing retirement in older patients and allocate proper treatment resources when necessary.


Segel-Karpas D, Ayalon L, Lachman ME. Retirement and depressive symptoms: a 10-year cross-lagged analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2018;269:565-570.