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Title: Retirement : the eternal contradiction? : a systematic review of the physical and mental health impacts of retirement, and a longitudinal investigation of the psychological impact of retirement and the predictive role of individual differences
Author: Gibson, Kara Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 6501
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2019
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Background: It is important to understand how retirement impacts on health, in order to predict the experiences of, and provide services for, the rapidly aging population. The evidence base is contradictory and retirement has been found to have positive, negative and neutral effects on physical and mental health, prompting the need for an updated review. As the effects of retirement are unclear at a population level, it is also important to consider what role individual and employment-related factors may play in adjustment to retirement. In a move away from traditional retirement theories, the framework of functional contextualism is applied to understand the individual differences in retirement experience. Method: The systematic review of studies published from 2013 - 2018 assesses, evaluates and interprets the most recent evidence regarding the physical and mental health impact of retirement. The subsequent longitudinal study focuses on the psychological impact of retirement. A group of older workers approaching retirement completed measures of individual factors (psychological flexibility, job satisfaction and job control) and psychological wellbeing (mental health, wellbeing and quality of life) before and after retiring. Results The systematic review identified 13 high or acceptable quality studies which met inclusion criteria. There was significant heterogeneity across studies. The findings were contradictory: studies reporting on physical health found positive, negative and neutral effects of retirement, and studies reporting on physical health found an equally mixed picture. Country-level trends were noted, with improvements in studies from Scandinavia and deteriorations in studies from the USA and Japan. In the empirical study, 51 participants completed the baseline measures and 27 also completed the follow-up measures. Key findings were as follows: 1) Psychological flexibility was significantly associated with better psychological wellbeing scores at baseline. 2) Across participants, wellbeing significantly increased from baseline to retirement, and smaller increases were seen in mental health and some quality of life domains. 3) Psychological flexibility was a significant predictor of mental health scores post-retirement T2, although these findings should be considered with caution due to the small sample size. Conclusion There continues to be a lack of clarity around the impact of retirement on health and individual differences may play an important role in understanding the variance found across studies. Heterogeneity across studies presents many challenges to synthesising the evidence base, and there is a clear need for further studies using validated, comprehensive measures to follow a diverse range of participants through the retirement transition. The empirical study is an encouraging example of how the role of individual differences in the retirement transition can be explored, and the findings indicate that psychological flexibility is a protective factor both for those in work and those who retire. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed, along with the potential benefits of trialling interventions to increase psychological flexibility with workers preparing for retirement and the older population in general.
Supervisor: Gillanders, David ; Edgar, Fionnuala Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: retirement ; psychological flexibility ; systematic review ; country-level trends ; wellbeing ; quality of life