Personality and gender can affect our reactions to retirement ShareThis


Drawing on data from Understanding Society and the British Household Panel Survey, a new study discusses how personality traits can impact retirees’ well-being levels. Females who have a open personality are likely to experience greater satisfaction from retirement.

The article, Retirement, Personality and Wellbeing has been published in the Economic Inquiry and uses data from Wave 3 of Understanding Society and Wave 15 of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS).

By using longitudinal data from individuals aged between 50-75 years old, this study is one of the first in its field to look at the relationship between retirement, gender, personality and well-being.

One of the researchers, Dusanee Kesavayuth from the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, comments on why this research is important and why data from Understanding Society was the ideal resource.

“Retirement is a major life-course transition that often leads to changes in many domains of people’s lives. I believe that understanding how individuals cope with retirement may be useful for informing policy choices. The richness of the data from BHPS and Understanding Society made such inquiry possible, allowing us to analyse how two sources of individual heterogeneity – personality and gender – impact the well-being effect of retirement.”

Key findings

  • Retirement increases leisure satisfaction for both males and females, although it does not seem to affect overall life satisfaction and income satisfaction.
  • The research found evidence of heterogeneity in terms of personality and gender.
  • Female retirees high in openness or low in conscientiousness are likely to experience greater satisfaction with overall life when compared with other females.
  • For males, however, personality does not seem to matter in how they cope with retirement.

Which survey questions were used from Understanding Society?

In Understanding Society, participants are asked to evaluate satisfaction with three domains of life (health, income, and leisure) as well as satisfaction with life overall. Answers are coded on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 indicates “not satisfied at all” and 7 indicates “completely satisfied.”

In Wave 3 of Understanding Society, participants were also asked to rate how they see themselves against a 15-item personality inventory. Each personality dimension – agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness – is represented by the answers to three questions that are reported on a scale ranging from 1 (does not apply to me at all) to 7 (applies to me perfectly).

Policy recommendations

Dusanee comments, “Complementing previous work in economics and psychology, these findings may be useful for informing policy choices for older individuals and in their own planning. For instance, counselling programs for retirement should consider how to tailor the message and support to different personality types and gender.”

“In highlighting these differences among older individuals, we aim to encourage new research that could further our understanding of individual heterogeneity in retirement. Replicating the aforementioned findings for different countries to explore the potential role of cultural differences could be another valuable source of information for use in retirement preparation courses.”

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NB Please note that this news article has been reposted from the Understanding Society website.