Older people who are not in employment are less likely to feel "worthwhile", a study has found.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow said that being in work provides individuals with a sense of "value to society".
This diminishes after leaving the workplace, even through retirement, they found.
The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, examined attitudes towardsemployment and non-employment in more than 1,500 men and women aged 55 to 70 in the west of Scotland.
Compared with those who work, those who are retired, home-makers, unemployed, or not working because of sickness or disability are more likely to feel their status results in poorer social and mental engagement and lower self-esteem.
They were more likely to report feeling lonely and isolated and less likely to report being sociable, making use of their abilities and feeling worthwhile.
The authors wrote: "These results support the notion that, in addition to financial rewards, employment provides individuals with a sense of belonging and value to society, which diminishes after leaving the workplace even when this exit is through a potentially positive route such as retirement."
Lead author Dr Elise Whitley said: "There are many individual and societal benefits to extending working lives and the success of future pension systems may be highly reliant on increases in the older workforce and retirement ages. However, recent trends have been towards earlier exits from the workplace, not always through choice.
"As well as economic benefits, being employed has other advantages including social contact, daily structure, social identity, status and regular activity.
"Older people who are not working represent a high-risk group and, while re-employment may not always be possible, interventions that decrease loneliness, social isolation and boredom and improve self-esteem offer valuable opportunities to improve health outcomes and promote successful ageing.
"For example, programmes promoting volunteering and community involvement, or widening access to public transport could help to reduce the negative impact not being inemployment on the health of older adults."