It's hard to think of an early retirement1 as anything other than a positive. Who wouldn't want to trade in their suit and tie for a pair of beach shorts? While retiring ahead of schedule may be easier on the body, a new set of research has found that it may not be so beneficial for the mind.
The study, conducted at Binghamton University, finds that an early retirement can accelerate the usual rate of cognitive2 decline among the elderly.
The research team analyzed3 China's new rural pension scheme (NRPS), as well as China's most recent Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS), in order to investigate the effects of early retirement and pension benefits on individual cognition among adults over the age of 60. For reference, CHARLS is a representative national survey of China's population over the age of 45 that tests respondents regarding mental cognition, episodic memory, and overall mental wellbeing.
After going over all of the data, the research team noted4 a clear trend: individuals receiving pension benefits were experiencing much more rapid mental decline than their counterparts still on the workforce5. The most prominent indicator6 of mental decline among retirees was delayed recall, a trait widely considered to be an accurate predictor of dementia. Surprisingly, females seemed to experience even sharper mental decline after retiring early. Overall, the results support the hypothesis that decreased mental activity accelerates cognitive decline.
This study's findings were similar to previous research that had focused on the impact of retirement on elderly individuals living in the United States, England, and the European Union. So, this is hardly a trend limited to Asia.
Nikolov had actually conducted previous studies that found retirement led to a number of positive physical health benefits for retirees, such as improved sleep patterns, less stress, and reduced alcohol consumption. However, retirement is also usually accompanied with a decline in social activities and less overall interaction with people, which has also been linked to cognitive decline.
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