Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The Silent Killer Among American Retirees

By Brian Stoffel - Updated Dec 20, 2017 at 5:40PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Many seniors don't see it coming -- but the good news is that it's preventable.

Its negative health effects are equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being an alcoholic, or never exercising. And it is twice as bad for retirees as obesity. But almost no one talks about this silent killer in retirement. What is it?

In a word: loneliness.

elderly man sitting alone at large table in gray house and eating from a bowl

Image source: Getty Images.

Before rolling your eyes, hear me out. In 2013, Merrill Lynch and Age Wave (MLAW) conducted a study asking pre-retirees what they would "miss most about work when they retire." By an enormous margin, "a reliable income" was the most popular answer.

Chart showing what pre-retirees think they will miss most about work when they retire

Image source: Merrill Lynch/Age Wave.

Then the researchers followed up by asking a group of currently retired folks what they missed the most about work. While "reliable income" was still high on the list, the responses were otherwise starkly different.

Chart showing what retirees miss most about work

Image source: Merrill Lynch/Age Wave.

If we combine "social connections," "having purpose," and "mental stimulation," these softer variables account for 65% of the most regrettable losses retirees face in their post-work lives. That tells us there's a glaring contrast between what we think is important in retirement while we're still working and what's actually important once we reach that stage.

What does this mean for you personally? Learn about the "New Social Security" on the next page.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 07/02/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.