Early Retirement May Speed up Cognitive Decline

Taking an early retirement may sound like a good idea for body and mind, but a new study found it can actually speed up cognitive decline. Some cognitive decline is normal among seniors, but what researchers discovered was that early retirement can accelerate that rate.

These were the findings of a study conducted by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Heading up the team was Plamen Nikolov, assistant professor of economics, and Alan Adelman, a doctoral student in economics. Their aim was to determine what the relationship was between pension benefits and individual cognition in people aged 60 and above. Their focus was on China’s senior citizens.

Nikolov and Adelman analyzed China’s New Rural Pension Scheme (NRPS), which is a formal pension program available to people living in rural parts of the country. They then looked at data obtained from the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS), which is a national survey that tests cognition, and especially episodic memory and components of intact mental status among people aged 45 and above.

Based on the study, they discovered “significant negative effects” on cognition function among retirees, with the largest indicator of cognitive decline being delayed recall, an accurate indicator of dementia. This supports previous research that arrived at similar findings. The theory is that early retirement could lead to decreased mental activity associated with the worsening of cognitive skills.

“We were surprised to find that pension benefits and retirement actually resulted in reduced cognitive performance. In a different study we found a very robust finding that the introduction of pension benefits and retirement led to positive health benefits via improvements in sleep and the reduction of alcohol consumption and smoking,” Nikolov said. “The fact that retirement led to reduced cognitive performance in and of itself is a stark finding about an unsuspected, puzzling issue, but a finding with extremely important welfare implications for one’s quality of life in old age.”

By Zoe Papadakis, Newsmax

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