Consequences of Retirement Activities for Distress and the Sense of Personal Control

Academic Article


  • We compare retirement with full-time employment on four forms of engaging activity and examine the consequences of retirement activities for the sense of control and psychological distress. We use a 1995 U.S. national telephone probability sample of 2,592 respondents with an oversample of persons aged sixty and older. In comparison to the activities of full-time employees, those of retirees are more alienating on some aspects but more engaging on others. Retiree activities are more routine, provide less of a chance to learn new things, provide less positive social interaction with others, and they are especially unlikely to involve problem-solving. However, retirees'activities are also equally enjoyable and more autonomous compared to those of full-time workers. Autonomous activities, fulfilling activities which are enjoyable and provide the opportunity to learn new things, and integrated activities are all positively associated with a sense of control and negatively associated with psychological distress. However, solving problems is associated with both high levels of control and high levels of distress. Retirees have a significantly lower sense of control than do full-time employees, in large part because of the characteristics of their daily activities. At the same time, retirees do not have significantly higher levels of psychological distress.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ross CE; Drentea P
  • Start Page

  • 317
  • End Page

  • 334
  • Volume

  • 39
  • Issue

  • 4