UBC researcher studies link between perfectionism and suicidal tendencies in male retirees

As thousands of baby boomers approach retirement, a new study
by UBC Psychology professor Paul Hewitt may eventually help
retirees better cope with this challenging, often risky, life

Hewitt has launched a one-year study to understand how perfectionism
influences the risk for depression, anxiety, hopelessness
and suicidal behaviours (thinking about committing suicide,
planning to commit suicide, attempting to commit suicide,
etc.) in men in retirement.

“Retirement can be a stressful event for anyone,”
Hewitt says. “For individuals characterized by high
levels of self-oriented perfectionism, who derive their self-esteem
from their work and base their identity around work, productivity
and achievement, it can be particularly difficult.”

Self-oriented perfectionists require perfection of themselves.
They are vulnerable to clinical depression and experience
high levels of stress.

The two-part study will use several questionnaires to assess
130 males five months before retirement and five months after

By determining if perfectionism is a significant factor for
depression suicide, Hewitt, also a clinical psychologist,
can then identify individuals who are prone to suicide and
assist with intervention and treatment. The study may also
determine how personality factors can make people vulnerable
to maladaptive behaviours.

The researcher decided to study men because they are more
likely than women to experience difficulty undergoing retirement
and to engage in suicidal behaviours, especially when over
65 years of age.

Hewitt began studying perfectionism as an undergraduate and
is one of a handful of global experts on the subject. He has
studied perfectionism as it relates to procrastination in
college students, suicidal behaviour in youths and adults,
victims of child abuse, eating and depressive disorders, substance
abuse, anxiety disorders and social phobias, road rage, and
out-of-control cases of narcissism.

The study is funded through a UBC Humanities and Social Sciences

Men interested in participating in the study should contact
UBC’s Perfectionism and Psychopathology Lab at 604.822.0932.
Participants must be approaching retirement within the next
6 months or have retired within the past 6 months.