Early Retirement Can Challenge Memory

Study finds that early retirement can damage cognitive abilities. Retiring early may actually harm a person’s memory, according to a study by two economists called “Mental Retirement”. Research conducted in the United States, England and 11 European nations suggest that people who retire early experience memory loss faster than those who work longer.  The study suggests that people who want to preserve their memories should stay active.

“It’s incredibly interesting and exciting,” said Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University.  “It suggests that work actually provides an important component of the environment that keeps people functioning optimally.”  Although the new analysis – which was published recently in The Journal of Economic Perspectiveshas its critics, many researchers find the theory is widely believed but difficult to prove. Researchers have found that retired people tend to perform at lower levels on cognitive tests than people who are still working.  That could be due to the fact that individuals whose memories and ability to think are declining are more likely to retire than those with sharp cognitive skills.

Robert Willis, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s authors, says the National Institution on Aging started a major study in the United States nearly two decades ago.  The Health and Retirement Study tested 22,000 Americans aged 50 and over on memory every two years.  European nations then decided to conduct similar surveys, using comparable questions.  “This is a new approach that is only possible because of the development of comparable data sets around the world,” Willis said.  “There is evidence that social skills and personality skills – getting up in the morning, dealing with people, knowing the value of being prompt and trustworthy – are also important.  They go hand-in-hand with the work environment.”

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