Here's what people contemplating retirement fear most:
What will I do with myself? they say. How will I spend my time?
Boredom, it turns out, can have serious psychological consequences. So their fears may be justified. (Though in my experience, few people actually end up at loose ends with their time.)
Boredom "correlates with depression, aggression anxiety… and it leads to addiction and other risk-taking behaviors," says Sandi Mann, a psychology professor at the University of Central Lancashire in England. "Boredom is the modern-day stress."
She's among a number of researchers quoted in an an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer looking at new studies on the psychological impact of boredom, a mostly ignored field. According to the story, some people would rather be subjected to electric shocks than the torture of being bored.
Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, says that being bored means confronting ourselves, a potentially terrifying proposition.
"Boredom, like anxiety, brings you face to face with the world without any distractions," the article quotes philosopher John D. Caputo as saying. Which could be a good thing. It's "an opportunity to think, mull things over and really ask about how you live your life."
That's a question many of us should probably be addressing, regardless of whether we are bored or not.