Outgoing people have a harder time coping with retirement, study says

BANGKOK, Thailand — Extroverts may be the social butterflies of their workplace, but a new study finds these employees may actually have a harder time dealing with retirement than others.

Researchers say outgoing individuals miss the friendships formed with colleagues, putting their well-being at risk during their twilight years. On the other hand, conscientious types enjoy leaving the office for good. The trait acts as a “psychological buffer,” helping them identify fresh ways to fill their days.

The team also linked this trait to increased leisure satisfaction for those who left their jobs due to mandatory retirement policies. The characteristic also boosted overall life happiness among individuals leaving their jobs.

“We found that individuals scoring high on agreeableness, extraversion and/or openness who leave the workforce due to early or mandatory retirement might be particularly at risk,” writes lead author Dr. Dusanee Kesavayuth of Kasetsart University in the journal PLOS One. “Policies and intervention programs should therefore focus on helping those individuals.”

Examining new members of ‘The Great Resignation’

The study is based on data from more than 2,000 participants between 50 and 75 years-old in the British Household Panel Survey. The report identified links between personality, routes to leaving jobs, and well-being afterwards.

The findings could help guide targeted interventions and policies to boost the well-being of aging adults. Such efforts could be especially relevant during the current mass exodus of workers from the labor force during the pandemic. For example, researchers found that extraversion displayed a connection to lower satisfaction with life, income, and leisure among those who retire at a relatively early age.

However, being an extrovert improved leisure time for people leaving the workforce due to illness or other healthcare demands. They may also be motivated to find sociable and rewarding hobbies, the researchers explain.

“Our study uncovered associations between the routes people took to exit their jobs and their subsequent satisfaction with life, income, and leisure. These associations varied according to people’s personality traits. Conscientious individuals were more proactive in finding new fulfilling life patterns,” the researchers say in a media release.

As aging populations grow, communities and policy makers are showing more interest in the well-being of those departing the labor market. Experts have begun to explore how different exit paths – including mandatory retirements and voluntary retirements – connect to someone’s future happiness.

Other personality traits can affect happiness in retirement

Few studies have addressed how these career paths may vary depending on people’s personality traits. Dr. Kesavayuth and colleagues looked at the “Big Five” – a standard evaluation of personality. They compared them with subsequent life satisfaction after participants left their jobs, whether voluntarily or not, without plans to begin working again.

The team also found connections between life satisfaction and traits like agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism. However, the study does not point to these traits being the exact cause of changes in satisfaction in retirement.

“Neuroticism augments income satisfaction for those who become unemployed, which may reflect that people high in neuroticism had a lower “baseline level” of income satisfaction relative to typical individuals so they were not affected as much,” researchers write in the study. “Finally, agreeableness mitigates life and leisure satisfaction for those hitting mandatory retirement, as is also the case with openness in terms of income satisfaction.”

From 1980 to 2017, the number of people over 60 years-old across the world went from 382 million to 962 million. Projections show the proportion of older people is likely to double again in the next three decades.

“Given that population aging is a prevalent phenomenon, the study of the well-being effects of leaving work will likely continue to be an area of increased interest for academic research,” the study authors conclude.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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