The Dark Side of Retirement Mental Health Challenges Facing Baby Boomers

Retirement Business Advocate
Jane Smith

The Dark Side of Retirement


With Jane Smith

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Mental Health Challenges Facing Baby Boomers In Retirement

There is a hidden epidemic taking place in the shadows of retirement. It's a chilling reality that will impact baby boomers and their families more deeply than any economic recession or market crash. It's the dark side of retirement, where addiction, depression, and even suicide are quickly becoming so prominent that new and soon-to-be retirees must become more aware of the impact these powerful influences can have during retirement and develop a plan to avoid them.

As you will see, mental health issues like these are transforming the idyllic images of retirement from long walks on the beach, worldwide travel, and writing personal memoirs into slow walks down a hospital hallway, seclusion, and writing obituaries.

Drug & Alcohol Addiction
When you hear the word "addict," what comes to mind? A recent celebrity struggling with their fame and new found riches or an iconic long-hair hippie from the 60's or 70's? Unfortunately the new poster children are baby boomers who are once again making their mark on another aspect of life.

  • It is expected that, by 2020, the number of retirees with alcohol and other drug problems will leap 150% to 4.4 million-up from only 1.7 million in 2001.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the proportion of older people treated for a combination of cocaine and alcohol abuse tripled between 1992 and 2008. For this group, in 2008, cocaine abuse was the leading cause of admissions involving drugs (26.2%), with abuse of prescription drugs a close second at 25.8%.
  • Figures released by the U.S. based National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2011, showed that the percentage of Americans age 50 to 59 who reported having used illicit or prescription drugs more than doubled, to 6.2% from 2.7%, between 2002 and 2009.

Ironically, retirement for some boomers can complicate their addiction. Since most people live on less income, the cost of their habit may mean trade-offs in other areas of their life. Changes to their medical insurance may reduce or eliminate certain prescriptions including their strength, quantity, and overall effectiveness. Furthermore, medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and dentists may lose access to an easy and inexpensive supply ... all of which can lead to consequences of withdrawal and the need for treatment.


Initially, many retirees may feel elated that they're "off the clock" forever. However, after the honeymoon is over a retiree may feel sad, lonely or depressed when the reality of retirement sets in and it's not at all what they expected. Fact is, we're all trained from a young age to be productive.In retirement that is suddenly taken away from us, and we're left to deal with the void. Many people, especially those who are career oriented can suddenly feel empty when they retire. That can make depression a common problem in retirement.

  • The National Institutes of Health reports that, of the 35 million Americans age 65 or older, nearly 2 million suffer from full-blown depression. Another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness. Women are at a greater risk for depression because of biological factors such as hormonal changes and the stress that comes with maintaining relationships or caring for loved ones or children who are ill.
  • Depression is the single most significant risk factor for suicide among the elderly. Sadly, many of those who commit suicide did, in fact, reach out for help: 20% see a doctor on the day they die, 40 percent the same week and 70 percent the same month.
  • Conditions such as heart attack, stroke, hip fracture or macular degeneration, as well as procedures such as bypass surgery, are known to be associated with the development of depression. Grief over a spouse's death or terminal illness diagnosis may contribute to high rates of depression and suicide among the elderly. A spouse's death can lead to a reduction in pension benefits or bring additional financial burden. Also, the surviving spouse may not be able or willing to manage the finances if they were usually handled by the deceased spouse.

Lack of preparation or capacity to deal with these factors and other mental emotional components of retirement can culminate into one of the most troubling trends: Suicide.

  • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States with an aggregate rate of 11 suicide deaths per 100,000 Americans. Suicide rates are highest among people over the age of 65, according to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). That age group makes up 12.5 percent of the population and accounts for 15.9 percent of all suicides.
  • White men older than age 65 take their own life at almost triple the overall rate, and are eight times more likely to kill themselves than women in the same age group. Perhaps surprisingly, white men age 85 and older have the highest annual suicide rate of any group-51.4 deaths per 100,000. In contrast, the rate for white women peaks between ages 45 and 64 at 7.8 deaths per 100,000.
  • Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a dramatic spike in suicides among middle-aged people, with the highest increases among men in their 50s, whose rate went up by nearly 50% to 30 per 100,000; and women in their early 60s, whose rate rose by nearly 60%. In recent years, deaths by suicide has surpassed deaths by motor vehicle crashes.


As surprising as this information may seem, the threat of addiction, depression, and suicide become even more real as you examine their contributing factors. For example, baby boomers were the first generation to engage in the widespread use of recreational drugs, and the first group for which a wide variety of prescription medications were readily available and culturally accepted as treatment for nearly every alignment. Baby boomers are also at a critical stage in life where stress can mount due to natural aging, bodily dysfunction, grief and loss, and the financial strain that often stems from caring for both aging parent(s) and adult children/ grandchildren.

Other Lifestyle Trends
Other boomer lifestyle trends suggest we are heading towards a retirement crisis that makes the fear of running out of money paltry by comparison. Factors including lofty expectations about their ability to constantly re-invent themselves as well as the ability to stay young and relevant forever are causing boomer's to reach for solutions that can come back to haunt them.

Reality is, not everyone is aging gracefully; they're not as mobile and capable as they were before, and many are finding themselves alone instead of surrounded by "peace and love." Literally bringing to fruition the song lyrics of their generation, including those by The Who, "I hope I die before I get old," and Beatles, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?"

Combine statistics and research on divorce, physical well-being and social networks, and you have the making for a massive paradigm shift in retirement that demands more time and energy be committed to planning for the non-financial aspects of it:

  • A recent New York Times article noted that the overall, national rate of divorce in the United States is trending down. Except for one group: the 50-plusers, who have seen their rate of divorce surge 50% in the past 20 years. In fact, one in four couples divorce after age 50.
  • One study found that about 40% of boomer respondents said it was difficult for them to kneel or stoop, stand for two hours, walk one-quarter mile, climb 10 steps without resting, sit for two hours, lift and carry 10 pounds, reach over the head, push or pull a large object, or grasp small objects. That translates into 40% of boomers not finding as much joy as they expected in retirement because they'll struggle on a vacation that requires some walking, standing, or holding onto a rail, find it difficult to play on the floor or in the grass with their grandchildren, and garner less pleasure than ever when it comes to simple every day outlets such as gardening, biking with a friend, or watching a movie.
  • While the idea of eliminating personal interactions with some co-workers may sound great at first, humans weren't made to do life alone. Fewer interactions can lead retirees to feeling isolated, bored, and out-of-touch. Three factors that can compound negative feelings about retirement and cause people to seek drugs and alcohol to cope with the changes.


This shadowy downside of retirement appears to be exacerbated by the fact that today's seniors are from a generation that stressed self-reliance... a trait characterized by a reluctance to discuss financial and or personal/health matters. Making the dark side a relatively new problem that boomers and their families may struggle to understand, recognize, and find help for.

Fact is, the dark side of retirement is all too real, and requires new and existing retirees to make specific plans to help them avoid these dangers by setting aside some time to address issues such as:

  • Replacing their work identity
  • Establishing a healthy and active lifestyle
  • Staying socially connected and involved
  • Resolving relationship wants and needs before they turn into points of conflict

The retirement landscape is changing. Are you ready? Are you planting the right income seeds? The ones that will add diversity to your other, more traditional, retirement income plans? Are you prepared to nurture those seeds by turning your passion into a business that makes a difference to you, and maybe to others and your community? Are you prepared to deal with the weeds? Whether it's the people who don't believe in you, unexpected costs, or other challenges, you don't have to fight them alone or without expert support!

No matter where you are at in the retirement planning process, I want to invite you to learn more about how you can use a retirement business to make a successful transition into this next phase of life both personally and financially. Call me today (555) 555-0123.


The Dark Side of Retirement Mental Health Challenges Facing Baby Boomers

Jane Smith
123 Main Street
City, ST, ZIP
(555) 555-0123