Many people look forward to concluding a lifetime of work with retirement, but retirement can lead to a drastic decline in health. Research shows that although retirement may initially reduce stress, it significantly increases the chances of depression, physical illness, and the need for medication while reducing overall health. The longer one is in retirement the more the risks increase. Why? Turns out the body and brain need regular activity and social interaction to stay healthy, and retirement robs some people of those necessary influences.
Retirement can increase loneliness
Regular social interaction has been shown to be vital for health and vitality. In fact, social isolation has the same health risks as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, and regular social activity has been shown to prevent dementia.
If someone’s social life happened primarily at work, taking that away can suddenly launch them into isolation and loneliness, keeping company with the television. If someone is living alone because they lost a spouse through divorce or death, the risk of depression increases.
Retirement can decrease physical activity
Another risk with retirement is a sudden decrease of physical activity. Even if a person worked a fairly sedentary job, they were at least getting themselves to and from work and perhaps walking to lunch with coworkers.
When it comes to preventing disease and dementia and slowing the aging process, exercise is a magic bullet. Although a combination of strength training and high-intensity interval training are ideal ways to prevent disease and dementia, simply going for a walk every day is also highly preventive.
Retirement can decrease mental stimulation
The brain is like a muscle—use it or you lose it. Regular mental stimulation is vital to keeping the brain healthy and active, which helps lower the risk of depression, illness, and dementia. Working keeps the brain regularly engaged, especially if the job places higher demands on thinking skills. In retirement many are susceptible to spending days in front of the television, which does not stimulate the mind like reading, learning new things, and doing crossword puzzles and other games.
Stay healthy after retirement
The key to staying healthy after retirement is to maintain a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and social activity. Volunteering, learning something new, setting new goals and challenges for yourself, and working in some capacity are ways to avoid the increased risk of physical and mental decline after retirement.
A great resource is the book “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” by Dr. Datis Kharrazian. Be sure to get a copy. If you would like help with increasing your brain heath or just looking for ways to maintain the brain health you already have, give my office a call. I would love to help you.