The Role of the Latent Benefits of Work for Retiree Well-being

Project Details


One of the major demographic trends in the 21st century is the ageing workforce on one hand and an increasing number of retirees due to the improvement in the average life expectancy on the other (United Nations, 2013). As a consequence, more and more people are concerned with their well-being in old age and retirement. In line with Shultz and Wang (2011), retirement is defined as a state in which employees have left the workforce, are less psychologically committed to work, and have behaviourally withdrawn from it. Retirement, as can be the case with other major life events, might be stressful (cf. Wethington & Kessler, 1986) and could lead to deteriorated well-being (cf. Börsch-Supan & Jürges, 2009; Kim & Moen, 2002; Potočnik & Kowalski, in press; Potočnik, Tordera, & Peiro, 2013).

Keeping in mind that ageing itself is associated with a loss of resources (Baltes, 1997), a rather delicate situation may arise when employees enter the retirement. In line with Hobfoll’s Conservation of Resources theory (2001, p.339), we differentiate between two categories of resources: (1) resources "that are valued in their own right" and (2) resources that are valued because they help to achieve or protect other resources. Retirees who possess fewer resources have limited opportunities to avoid a further resource loss (Hobfoll, 2001). Thus, a resource loss spiral potentially develops when retirees are dealing with stressors (i.e., stimuli that threaten a person’s resources). A recent review by Wang and Shi (2014) acknowledges the role of a broad range of resources for retiree well-being. These authors state that emotional, social, cognitive, physical, motivational, and financial resources have been identified as relevant for retirees' adjustment.

However, the research on retiree well-being lacks a theory-based and comprehensive model explaining retiree well-being that incorporates a hierarchy of resources. To address this gap, we draw on Jahoda's latent deprivation theory (1982). In her theory, Jahoda states that work provides employees with more than just an income. Besides the manifest benefit income, work also provides the employees with status, social contacts, a time structure, a collective purpose, and activities. These five aspects are labelled as the latent benefits of work and Jahoda (1982, pp. 24-25) defines them as follows:
- Status is having an acknowledged social identity.
- Social contacts is the relationship with not familiarly related people.
- Time structure is an organized daily life.
- Collective purpose is the contribution to a purpose that transcends the individual.
- Activities is physical and psychological activation.

Research shows that psychological well-being deteriorates when an unemployed person does not find substitutes for these latent work benefits (Jahoda, 1982). Unemployment and retirement have conceptual similarities because in both conditions the person is not an active member of the workforce. Whereas for unemployed people this is often only a temporary state, retirees most likely will not enter the workforce again or at least not in the same way or to the same extent. Acknowledging this important difference between retirement and unemployment, it is still highly informative to apply the knowledge which is already gathered in the field on unemployment when examining the well-being of retirees (for other empirical studies please see Paul & Batinic, 2010; Selenko, Batinic, & Paul, 2011).

Therefore, the first aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive theory of retiree well-being building upon the Jahoda's (1982) latent deprivation theory suggesting that the manifest and latent benefits are the key resources for retirees’ well-being. Moreover, we suggest that some resources might be instrumental in establishing the aforementioned key resources. For instance, retirees’ self-efficacy (i.e., a motivational resource) might facilitate the engagement in social and unpaid productive activities that, in turn, have an effect on retirees’ well-being. Lemon et al. (1972) already point out to the particular relevance of the latent work benefit activities because they state that being activated is related to retiree well-being. In other words, our theoretical approach assumes a mediating role of key resources in the relationship between instrumental resources and retiree well-being. The second aim of this project is to test our theory on a sample of retirees. Next, we discuss the methods and procedures to be followed in order to achieve this aim.
Effective start/end date1/03/161/03/17