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Social Connectedness and the Desire to Retire

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

European researchers (see citation below) conducted a large population study (with 4575 people) to determine if social connectedness (defined as informal and formal participation in social life) had an influence on when people retired. They defined informal participation as social gatherings with friends, relatives, and neighbors and formal participation as community involvement like volunteering. The researchers speculated that, on the one hand, people who are socially active might retire earlier because they have friends and family to spend time with, and on the other hand that people with large work-based social connections might delay retirement to “avoid being cut off from the social life they value.” They did indeed find both to be true. In summary, they found:

  • People who have more contact with friends, family and neighbours were more likely to make the decision to retire earlier and the effects were significant: the difference between meeting friends and relatives never and at least once a week increased the pace of retirement by 16%. For those over aged 60 the decision to retire was 35% higher among workers who frequently meet with friends and relatives than among workers who didn’t.

  • Regardless of levels of informal connections, more people who engaged in volunteering remained employed compared with those who did not do any volunteering. For example, among workers in their 50s being active in civic and voluntary activities was associated with a 25% reduction in the desire to retire compared to workers who weren’t involved in community associations. The researchers suggested that this finding supports the idea that work and volunteering are complementary and should be promoted at an earlier age.

  • The researchers did note that it appears people’s social relationships remain relatively constant over time (i.e., that people typically don’t start to build their social network in anticipation of retirement) but they did see some increases in social connections after retirement, suggesting that in retirement people realize the important role social activities play in their lives.

Thinking about the above ideas:

  • Have you considered how frequently you interact with family, friends and neighbours? How important will these connections be to your life in retirement? If you haven’t cultivated these relationships what can you do to start now?

  • How frequently do you contribute in some way to your community, whether volunteering regularly or to specific time-limited causes? Finding ways to make small contributions may not only benefit your community but your own role within your workplace. If you’re contemplating retirement, can you identify what skills you have from your work that you could use to give back to people or organizations in your community?

If you want help to think through these ideas more fully check out the retirement planning resources available on the website:


Lancee, B., & Radl, J. (2012). Social connectedness and the transition from work to retirement. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 67(4), 481–490.

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