A good marriage and an ability to play far outweigh financial security and good health as keys to a satisfying retirement. These findings come from a life-long survey of 265 men from inner-city Boston, reported in the April 2006 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP), the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association.

George E. Vaillant, M.D., senior psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and coauthors from Harvard Medical School present these results in "Natural History of Male Psychological Health, XV: Retirement Satisfaction." Now past the age of 80, these largely working-class men retired at a mean age of 62 years, five years earlier than a more affluent comparison group of Harvard College graduates.

Earlier in their lives, their socially disadvantaged upbringing and poor health impacted heavily on their quality of life. Later in life, however, these factors were not the primary determinants of their happiness. The longevity and satisfaction of their marriages was the largest contributor. Their ability to enjoy their children and to participate in hobbies and community activities, which the authors term "play" because of its separation from financially remunerative work, was also associated with their happiness. Continuation of their primary employment from earlier in life into the age normally associated with retirement did not result in happiness.

"Dr. Vaillant's careful observation of the determinants of human happiness has added one more twist that should be thought-provoking to many men, who may not see retirement as a new stage of life to be aspired to," said Robert Freedman, M.D., AJP editor-in-chief.
(Am J Psychiatry. 2006; 163: 682-688).

About the American Journal of Psychiatry

The American Journal of Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association, publishes a monthly issue with scientific articles submitted by psychiatrists and other scientists worldwide. The peer review and editing process is conducted independently of any other American Psychiatric Association components. Therefore, statements in this press release or the articles in the Journal are not official policy statements of the American Psychiatric Association. The Journal's editorial policies conform to the Uniform Requirements of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, of which it is a member.

For further information about the Journal visit ajp.psychiatryonline.

About the American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose more than 36,000 physician members specialize in diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses including substance use disorders.

Visit the APA at psych and healthyminds.

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