2012. Vol.3, No.4, 322-327
Published Online April 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Comparative Study of the Quality of Adaptation and
Satisfaction with Life of Retirees According to Retiring Age
Catherine Hervé*, Nathalie Bailly, Michèle Joulain, Daniel Alaphilippe
Psychologie des Ages de la Vie , Université F. Rabelais,
Tours, France
Email: *
Received January 19th, 201 2; revised February 14th, 2012; accepted March 17th, 2012
The aim of this study was to compare the quality of adaptation and the satisfaction with life of two groups
of adults who retired at different ages. Participants were 579 French retirees: 234 had retired before the
age of 60, and 345 after 60. The two samples differed in their own perception and appreciation of the age
at which they retired.
Keywords: Age; Retirement; Transition; Adaptation; Satisfaction; Well-Being
The age of retirement is currently an issue of public concern.
Never before have the social and economical costs of retire-
ment given rise to so much debate. Advances in medical care,
together with changes in lifestyle and working conditions have
considerably increased the lifespan of people in the industrial
world. As the population ages, the possibility of retiring early
in life has become common practice (Ginn & Arber, 1996).
France has been particularly concerned by demographic change
and has carried out many political, economic and social reforms,
with the aim of increasing the quality of life of its retirees. A
wide range of pension schemes have been developed, facilitate-
ing the decision of when to retire. For example, in the 1980s, to
facilitate the transition towards retirement, the French govern-
ment introduced two bills to improve the financial conditions of
older working adults. In the last twenty years, the conditions for
taking early retirement have been modified in their content as
well as in their goals, and early retirement remains a popular
Currently, the majority of research projects in psychology
dealing with retirement focus on the factors accounting for the
heterogeneity of behaviour during retirement, without consid-
ering the impact of age and maturity/preparedness on how re-
tirees adapt during the transition period. Researchers are gener-
ally more interested in identifying the factors which may play a
role when deciding when to retire (Feldman, 1994, Henkens,
1999), or in analyzing the decision-making process itself
(Schulz, Morton, & Weckerle, 1998). The age factor is never-
theless critical.
Retirement remains one of the most important transition pe-
riods in personal and family life. It represents a social and an
emotional challenge (Lo & Brown, 1999). For some, retirement
can be an opportunity to set new goals, to start new activities,
and can lead to greater life satisfaction (Calasanti, 1996; Maule,
Cliff, & Taylor, 1996). For others, it entails difficulties of adap-
tation, feelings of distress, and rapid deterioration of physical
and psychological health (Bosse, Aldwin, Levenson, & Work-
man-Daniels, 1990). Although the event itself is inevitable,
people apprehend, anticipate and perceive it differently. The
meaning of retirement, its impact on life satisfaction, and suc-
cessful adaptation differ considerably from one individual to
another. We hypothesize that the age at which people stop work
influences the way they adapt to retirement.
This study aimed to improve our understanding of the impact
of age on how people adapt to retirement, irrespective of the
political reforms affecting their social and economic situation.
More specifically, we analyzed how retirees perceived their
retiring, and the impact this had on their quality of adaptation
and satisfaction with life. While some authors have established
a positive link between retirement and life satisfaction (Midanik,
Soghikian, Ransom, & Tekawa, 1995), others have suggested
that the feeling of well-being decreases in retirement (Elwell &
Maltbie-Crannel, 1981). Other studies have found that retire-
ment is seen as a common event with no notable effect on
well-being (“the satisfaction with life is stable” Stull, 1988).
The aim of the present study was to examine further these
hypotheses. It compared the quality of adaptation and satisfac-
tion with life of two groups of adults retiring before and after
the age of 60. We investigated whether the two groups shared a
similar quality of adaptation and satisfaction with life, and
whether they showed similar feelings about the age at which
they retired.
The sample consisted of 579 retirees living throughout F ra n ce .
They were divided into two groups: 234 participants had retired
before the age of 60, and 345 had retired at or after 60. The
sample included 276 men (47.26%) and 303 women (51.88%),
with an average age of 72.2 years (SD 5.6). Their average age
of retirement was 58.71 years (SD 5.76). Approximately 58%
of the subjects were married or living with a partner, and ap-
proximately 26% were widowed or single. The majority of
participants lived at home (98.97%). A specific feature of the
*Corresponding author.
participants concerned their education level which was signifi-
cantly higher than that of the French population in general.
There was a high proportion of graduates, with 39.21% of the
participants having attended university; only 0.5% did not have
any diploma. The characteristics of the sample are shown in
Table 1.
In this comparative study, we investigated various indicators
allowing a precise evaluation of the impact of the retiring age
on the feeling of well-being and satisfaction at the time of re-
tirement and in the following years. The quality of adaptation to
retired life was evaluated through questionnaires about well-
being (Diener, Such, Lucas, & Smith, 1999) and satisfaction
with life (Ryff & Keyes, 1995), and the French adaptation of
the Boredom Proneness scale (Gana & Akremi, 1998). It was
completed by a list of 26 items taken from the OARS method-
ology concerning pathologies to which older people are poten-
tially at risk (Duke University, 1978). In addition, two simple
items measured the satisfaction of each person with the retiring
condition. The first concerned the time of retirement (early,
normal or late) and the second measured the retiree’s satisfac-
tion with his/her age at retirement (“I would have preferred to
retire earlier/at the same age/later”). To summarize, the ques-
tionnaire consisted of four scales and two supplementary items
(see Table 2).
The participants were all volunteers belonging to the same
Table 1.
Characteristics of the two groups of retirees.
Participants who retired
before the age
of 60 years at or after
60 years
Mean 54.44 61.70
Age at
retirement SD 5.87 2.67
Mean age 71.38 72.76
Age SD 4.62 6.12
Male 20.55 27.12
Gender (%) Female 19.86 32.47
Married 25.61 33.04
Widowed 9.17 17.13
Single 1.73 2.60
Separated 3.11 6.06
Unmarried 0.87 0.69
No qualifications0.35 0.18
Baccalauréat 18.76 31.68
level (%) University
Retirement home0.34 0.69
Place of
residence (%) Own home 39.89 58.88
Table 2.
Results of the two simple items (satisfaction with the retiring condi-
Participants who retired
before the
age of 60 at or
after 60
1 = Late 0.35 2.26
2 = Early 29.22 12.70
Time of
retirement (%)3 = Normal 10.61 44.87
Mean 2.25 2.71*
I would have
preferred to
1 = retire earlier 2.79 7.33
2 = at the same age 23.39 40.66
with age at
retirement (%)3 = later 14.14 11.69
Mean Score 2.28
Note: p < 0.00002.
management pension scheme. They were recruited via an ad-
vertisement in a specialized journal which presented the aims of
our study and included an application form for people wishing
to participate in the project. More than a thousand people re-
turned the form and were sent a questionnaire by e-mail.
Eighty-six percent of the questionnaires were returned.
Average scores were calculated for each adjusted scale and
for each simple item in the two groups: those who retired be-
fore and after 60. Analyses of variance were then carried out.
Evaluati o n o f t he R e t ir e e s’ Sense of Satisfaction with
Their own Transition to Retirement
Table 2 shows the results for the two simple items and indi-
cates differences between the two groups in how they evaluated
their age at retirement. Participants who retired before the age
of 60 described their retirement age as early, and those who
retired after 60 said that they retired at the normal time [F (1,
573) = 114.39, p < 0.00000]. Adults who retired before the age
of 60 would have preferred to retire later in life, whereas those
who retired after 60 were satisfied with their age at the time of
retiring [F (1, 571) = 18.37, p < 0 .0 00 0 2 ].
Additional statistical analyses of the socio-demographic va-
riables revealed little significant effect in this section of the
questionnaire. Only marital status had an impact on the younger
retirees’ characterization of their retirement age: those who
were separated considered more than the others that their age at
retirement was early [F (4, 564) = 3.42, p < 0.008].
After analysing the two groups separately, further statistical
analyses of the whole group were performed which showed a
significant effect of socio-demographic variables. There was a
significant effect of gender on how the time of retirement was
perceived and satisfaction with age at retirement.
For example, men tended to describe their retirement as early,
whereas women generally described theirs as normal [F (1, 573)
= 4.4999, p < 0.03]. Men would also have preferred to retire
later, whereas most women were satisfied with their age at
retirement [F (1, 571) = 10.06, p < 0.001]. The level of educa-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 323
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
tion also influenced satisfaction with the age of retirement. The
participants who had been to university (M = 2.28) would have
preferred to retire later in life [F (5, 553) = 5.87, p < 0.00002].
This was also the case for people living together as husband
and wife (M = 2.66) [F (4, 567) = 2.51, p < 0.04).
appearing more bored (M = 7.34) than those who retired later
(M = 6.55) [F (1, 531) = 5.84, p = 0.01]. No significant effect
of socio-demographic variables on boredom was observed.
4) Health
There were 26 items measuring health, and the participants
as a whole showed very satisfactory health, with scores varying
from 0 to 10 points. The average rate of sickness for the popu-
lation as a whole was 2.09 (SD 1.62); 13% claimed to have no
illness (n = 72), and 6.6% (n = 39) declared that they suffered
from five or more pathologies.
Quality of Adaptation to Retirement Related to the
Age of Leaving Work
1) Evaluation of well-being
Well-being was measured by four items with scores varying
from 4 to 18 points. Well-being expressed by the whole popu-
lation was very high (M = 12.61; SD = 1.84). No significant
difference in the evaluation of well-being was observed be-
tween the two sub-groups.
Figure 2 shows the number of pathologies experienced by
each group of participants since their retirement. The number of
pathologies is displayed on the x-axis and the number of people
on the y-axis. It can be seen that the age of retirement corre-
sponds to significant differences in the health of participants ([F
(1, 572) = 5.80, p = 0.01]), participants who retired before 60
experiencing more pathologies (M = 2.29) than those who re-
tired after 60 (M = 1.96). Of the participants who retired before
60, 9.87% claimed to have no pathology, whereas 15.74% of
those who retired after 60 described themselves as free of any
illness. Similarly, the number of participants who had con-
tracted five or more pathologies since retiring was higher in the
group of participants who retired before 60 (8.97%) than among
those who retired after 60 (5.26%).
A more detailed analysis of each of the four items was car-
ried out. The results are shown in Figure 1. The items are pre-
sented on the x-axis, the average scores on the y-axis. Retirees
in both sub-groups were satisfied with the way they managed
their time and their financial situation (average scores above 3
on a scale of 4 points). Participants in both groups described
their health as relatively satisfactory (around 3.5/5), and similar
to what it had been 3 years previously (around 75%). Nonethe-
less, individuals who had retired after 60 more readily de-
scribed their health to be “much better” than that of their peers
[F (1, 572) = 4.47, p < 0.3]. No effect of the socio-demographic variables on health was
observed in either group.
Further statistical analyses were performed to measure the
impact of socio-demographic variables on well-being. No sig-
nificant effect of these variables was observed on the scale of
well-being or on any of the four separate items.
Factors De te rmining Sati sfaction w i th th e Age of
A principal components analysis with varimax rotation was
first performed for the whole sample on the four scales ex-
pressing the quality of adaptation to retired life. Two factors
were identified: 1) adaptation related to the former occupation,
and 2) adaptation related to health (Table 3).
2) Satisfaction with life
Satisfaction with life was high in both groups. It was meas-
ured on a scale of 2 to 35 points with an average of 25.67 points
(SD 5.12). This average was identical for the two groups (M =
25.28 for all the individuals who had retired before the age of
60 and M = 25.94 for those who had retired after 60). However,
the family situation affected life satisfaction in both groups,
married people who had retired before the age of 60 showing
greater life satisfaction than other participants [F (4, 560) =
4.22, p < 0.002].
The first factor explains 38.9% of the total variance. It is
positively linked to satisfaction with life and negatively linked
to boredom, suggesting a link between former occupation and
adaptation to retirement. The second factor explains 30.9% of
the total variation. It is positively linked to the number of pa-
thologies and refers to the effect of physical capacities on ad-
aptation to retirement.
3) Boredom
Boredom was measured with 28 items, with scores varying
from 0 to 22 points. Overall, participants demonstrated very
low levels of boredom, with an average score of 6.87 (SD 3.70).
There were significant differences according to age at retire-
ment, with participants who had retired before the age of 60
To identify the factors accounting for satisfaction with the
age of retirement and their respective weights, two multiple
regression analyses were carried out. A forward stepwise re-
gression analysis was performed for each group in order to
Time Manage ment Fin a ncial s it ua tio nHea lt h no wHea lth 3 ye a rs a go
Well-being Items
At or after 60 years
Before 60 years
Average Scores
Figure 1.
Results for the four w el l -being items in the questionnaire.
Number of patholo
Number of Par t icip a n t s
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
At or after 60 years
befo r e 60 y e a rs
Figure 2.
Number of pathologies exper i e nce d by each group of participants s ince retiring.
Table 3.
Results of the factorial analysis.
Factor 1
(a) Relation ship betwe en
former occupation and
adaptation to retirement
Factor 2
(b) Effect of physical
capacitie s on adaptation
to retirement
Well-being 0.585 –0.572
with life 0.784* –0.112
Boredom –0.774* 0.022
Number of
pathologies –0.008 0.946*
variance 1.558 1.236
variation 0.389 0.309
Note: * > 0.70.
produce the best predictive model based on the selected vari-
The selected criteria concern the item: “Are you satisfied
with the age you were when you retired?” The predictors were:
1) the variables correlated with each of the two factors of ad-
aptation (satisfaction with life, boredom and number of pa-
thologies); and 2) the socio-demographic characteristics of the
participants (sex, family situation, academic level and place of
residence) (see Tables 4 and 5).
For both groups, the main predictor of satisfaction with age
at retirement was academic level. The other significant predict-
tors were 1) boredom, place of residence and sex for individu-
als who retired before 60 (R2 = 0.118; F (4, 239) = 7.88; p <
0.0000); and 2) sex and the number of pathologies for indi-
viduals who retired after 60 years old (R2 = 0.111, F (3, 350) =
14.51, p < 0.0000).
The aim of this research was to determine whether and how
different social profiles and retirement ages affect senior citi-
zens’ feeling of well-being and adaptation to retirement. We
compared the results of people who retired from professional
life before and after the age of 60, using a set of scales meas-
ureing adaptation to retirement and satisfaction with the age of
Table 4.
Results of the forward stepwise regression analysis (individuals who
retired before 60 years).
Retirement before 60 years
Predictors Are you satisfied with the age you were
when you retired?
Beta R2 F p
Academ ic level 0.25 0.06 16.04 0.000
Academ ic level 0.27 0.09 12.10 0.000
Boredom 0.17
Academ ic level 0.28 0.10 9.43 0.000
Boredom 0.16
Place of residence 0.12
Academ ic level 0.27 0.11 7.88 0.000
Boredom 0.17
Place of residence 0.12
Gender –0.11
Table 5.
Results of the forward stepwise regression analysis (individuals who
retired at or after 60).
Retirement at or after 60 years
Predictors Are you satisfied with the age you were
when you retired?
Beta R2 F p
Step 1
Academ ic level 0.20 0.04 15.09 0.000
Step 2
Academic level 0.18 0.05 8.96 0.000
Gender –0.09
Step 3 0.05 6.64 0.000
Academic level 0.18
Gender –0.09
Number of pathologies 0.07
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 325
Overall, our sample appeared to have adapted well to retire-
ment and showed a true sense of satisfaction with their retired
life. Nevertheless, different profiles of satisfaction and well-
being emerged when different variables were isolated in each
group, providing a clearer picture of the mechanisms of satis-
faction with retirement. For example, appreciation of the age of
retiring varied between the two groups. Those who retired after
the age of 60 spoke positively of their age when they left work,
whereas those who retired earlier expressed regrets about their
age. Those who retired after the age of 60 considered that the
age at which they retired was satisfactory and a normal time of
life to stop working. By contrast, those who retired before 60
thought that they had retired too early and would have preferred
to stop work later. With no information about why the partici-
pants had retired at a particular age, the difference of apprecia-
tion observed in each group remains purely descriptive. How-
ever, the literature reports that the reasons motivating an indi-
vidual to retire from professional life have a major impact on
the way this transition is experienced. Research has shown that
involuntary retirement can have a negative impact on adapta-
tion (Bossé, Spiro, & Levenson, 1997), individuals who retire
involuntarily tending to be more anxious, depressed or stressed
than those who retire voluntarily (Sharpley & Layt o n , 1998).
Analysis of the quality of adaptation to retirement according
to retiring age using questionnaires of well-being (Diener, Such,
Lucas, & Smith, 1999), satisfaction with life (Ryff & Keyes,
1995), and boredom (Gana & Akremi, 1998), and a list of pa-
thologies to which elderly people are potentially at risk (ad-
aptation—OARS; Duke University, 1978), reveal different pro-
files of adaptation depending on whether the retiring age is
before or after the age of 60.
Our sample as a whole had adapted well to this period of
transition, with scores indicating a state of well-being and sat-
isfaction with retired life and low scores for boredom and
Regarding the evaluation of well-being, people who retired
after the age of 60 considered their health to be better than that
of their peers. It thus seems that extending working life con-
tributes to satisfactory health, and that prolonged contact with
the professional and social environment of work to an advanced
age favours good health among the retired population. Many
studies refer to the importance of the social environment and its
effects on health (Unger, McAvay, Bruce, Berkman, & See-
man, 1999) and well-being (Sarason et al., 1990; Vaux, 1990;
Prince, Harwook, Blizard, Thomas, & Mann, 1997).
Our results show that people who retire before the age of 60
years, and particularly those who are married, seem more satis-
fied with their life than other retirees. The possibility of sharing
more time with the spouse remains a criterion of satisfaction for
people who retire early. According to Atchley (1976), recently
retired people go through a euphoric phase in which they aim to
achieve things they had never had time to do. Gilford (1984)
makes similar observations: newly retired couples tend to
compensate for the decrease in professional activities by spend-
ing more time together, thus intensifying the couple’s interde-
pendence. We also observed that the retiring age had significant
effects on the feeling of boredom and on the evaluation of
Two important elements emerged:
1) Participants who retired before the age of 60 express more
boredom than those who retired later.
2) The number of pathologies reported by people who retired
early is greater than those reported by people who retired after
In line with Parkes’ conclusions (1971) concerning various
life transitions, we observed that when a change takes place
gradually (as is the case for people who retire after the age of
60), the person has more time to prepare for the new lifestyle;
the probability for the retired person to be satisfied with this
change is greater than if retirement is seen as being early.
Finally, with regard to the factors of satisfaction with retiring
age, the variables extracted from our analyses appear to be re-
liable indicators of satisfaction for both groups; for the early
retired population, the final model explained 10% of the vari-
ance. However, for people who retired after 60, the model ex-
plained only 5% of the variance. The main factors of satisfac-
tion with retiring age are identical in the two groups. In prince-
ple, and irrespective of the participants’ age, a high level of
education appears to be the main factor of satisfaction with the
time of retiring; a high academic qualification leading to good
living conditions produces a feeling of satisfaction with retire-
In short, the main finding of our study highlights the impor-
tance of drawing attention to the retiring age, which emerged as
a significant factor in successful transition to retirement. While
the conditions for retiring are largely determined by law, only
the individual can determine his/her own readiness for retire-
ment based on self-image and perception of his/her capacities.
Our study reveals that socio-economic variables have a limited
predictive impact on how well people adapt to retirement. In
line with the work of Floyd et al. (1992) on life satisfaction, our
study reveals that the way individuals see themselves in their
own life and their perception of retirement largely determines
their satisfaction with the age at which they stop work. Socio-
demographic factors are of secondary importance. Similar re-
sults have been reported by Ryff, 1995. Life experiences and
how they are interpreted are the clue to overall life satisfaction.
Like all research, this study has its limitations. The first is
psycho-sociological. Our sample consisted of retirees belonging
to the upper social classes, who were well-educated, in good
health, and had mostly adapted well to retirement. This sample
is thus not representative of the retired community as a whole,
but it reveals the existence of a link between boredom and re-
gret at retiring too early, generally before the age of 60. The
second limitation concerns the lack of information about how
our participants had prepared their retirement. Many studies
insist on the need to prepare workers for retirement from the
professional world. Research has shown that preparation for
retirement is often associated with better adaptation and with a
low level of psychological distress (Lo & Brown, 1999; Shar-
pley & Layton, 1998). A period of preparation would allow the
future retiree to develop a favourable attitude towards retire-
ment, to have a better understanding of his means, and to be
less nostalgic of his previous professional life.
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