Study Finds Some Older Unemployed Workers Happier Once They Call It Quits

Some long-term unemployed older workers who give up the job search and retire, it turns out, are happier once they finally call it quits.

Researchers followed older discouraged workers in Germany for 15 years and found that an early retirement was the best course of action for most unemployed adults, in part because they felt better about themselves when they say they’re retired rather than unemployed, according to a  Time magazine report.

It must be noted that many older adults are not able to make ends meet if they give up the job hunt and retire. They have no alternative but to keep looking until they get hired. And that’s been quite a challenge for Americans  55-plus. On average, they’ve spent more than a year searching for work.

The German study was interesting for its socio-economic implications. Researchers who following people from working age into retirement found that unemployed workers 55-plus weren’t just troubled because they were struggling financially. They felt an additional burden because they couldn’t keep up with their neighbors or their neighbors’ expectations.

Put another way, they didn’t believe they were conforming to societal standards because they felt they should be working and they weren’t, explains Gary Belsky in Time.

The study, involving 20,000 people, found that older workers who settled in retirement after a long stretch of unemployment got happier when they officially gave up the job hunt. It wasn’t entirely clear why switching from “I’m unemployed” to “I’m retired” made some people feel better. But researchers suggested that retiring was associated with “an increase in identity” that was more positive than being without work.

The study also found — to no one’s surprise — that unemployment was among the most “harmful factors” to a person’s well-being. It also found that being unemployed before retirement does not reduce life satisfaction after retirement in the long run.

Photo credit: Paul Swansen via