Planning for a Healthy and Happy Retirement?

Harvard University started a study of adult development in 1930s to have a greater understanding of adult development: what keeps us healthy and happy. This study is continuing today and it has a number of findings.

Psychiatrist, Robert Waldinger, is the director of the study and in November last year he delivered a TED talk which is worth a listen. The study took a cohort of Harvard under-graduates in 1930s and an equal number of less advantaged young men from Boston, a total of 720 of which 60 remain in the study.  Harvard researchers have tracked the lives of these men by contacting them at regular intervals and asking them detailed questions about their lives and feelings. They also undertake medical tests to monitor physical and mental fitness.

The results so far suggest that it is not wealth, fame or our jobs which make us happy or keep us healthy. Instead it is the number and quality of relationships we have with other human beings. A commonly cited statistic is that the first 18 months of retirement is the most deadly for men. This is because of a failure to replace work with other interests and relationships.

Many larger companies recognise this and provide their employees with a pre-retirement programme which slowly withdraws them from the workplace and encourages them to adopt new interests. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not work for large companies and are expected to stop work one day and start retirement the next. Therefore if you are within a couple of years of retirement you should plan your life after work and reduce the time spent working in favour of developing the relationships you will enjoy after retirement.

I hope the above is of interest, let me know if you have any questions or comments.