The one simple change you can make to your retirement routine to boost your mental health

Hanging up our work hats for good is something many of us look forward to.

And while a retirement routine that includes anything from more time catching up with friends, to volunteering for our favourite causes is often on the agenda, new research has revealed a surprising addition to this set up that could have a positive impact on our mental health.

Published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine the study from University of Cambridge revealed that dipping a toe back into office life could hold the key to a happier life for retirees and other groups.

It found that being in employment for just eight hours a week – roughly the equivalent of a working day – boosts mental health through providing time structure, social contacts, a sense of identity and more.

Does part-time work make us happier?

The findings came after analysing responses to a UK survey conducted annually from 2009, questioning more than 71,000 individuals aged 16 to 64 who gave answers for two years or more.

This group rated their life satisfaction, gave a score for their mental health also provided data including their hours of work and employment status.

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Taking into account factors such as age, household income, illness and whether research participants had any children they found that overall transitioning from unemployment to employment reduced people’s risk of falling into the ‘poorest mental health’ category by 30 per cent.

The above category is defined as the lowest fifth of the scores collated.

And in even more promising news for those retirees who aren’t keen on a full reintroduction into the world of work, the research highlighted that the reduction remained at the same figure whether participants worked one day a week or more hours over this figure.

The beneficial impact of this work pattern were also seen for women and men who were not working due to factors such as disability, retirement, caring responsibilities, or parental leave.

What will future work patterns look like?

Commenting on the findings, Brendan Burchell, a co-author of the research from the University of Cambridge, said, "We have effective dosage guides for everything from Vitamin C to hours of sleep in order to help us feel better, but this is the first time the question has been asked of paid work.

"We know unemployment is often detrimental to people’s wellbeing, negatively affecting identity, status, time use, and sense of collective purpose.

"We now have some idea of just how much paid work is needed to get the psychosocial benefits of employment - and it’s not that much at all."

The findings could also indicate that future work patterns may shift with the research authors suggesting that two-hour work days could, in theory, become a reality.

Miriam worked for woman&home for over five years and previously worked on the women's lifestyle magazines Woman and Woman's Own.