Research Finds Your Brain Might Suffer From Early Retirement

When we are reaching our retirement years, we often begin to look forward to the possibility of kicking our feet up and taking it easy for a while. However, a new study shows that retiring early may not be very good for your health.

The paper was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. It looked at those who retired early and showed that if you did, you were more likely to have a problem with cognitive decline.

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Plamen Nikolov is the study’s lead author, who spoke about how participants showed lower levels of social engagement after retiring. This also was coupled with lower rates of volunteering and social interaction.

In a press release, he said: “We find that increased social isolation is strongly linked with faster cognitive decline among the elderly.” You can see how the two would go hand-in-hand.

The study looked at the aging population in China to analyze cognitive functioning. In parts of China, a program was established in 2009 to keep those entering their golden years from also entering the poverty level. It is known as the New Rural Pension Scheme (NRPS).

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It is optional to participate in the program because it is entirely voluntary. Nikolov spoke of it as being similar to a 401(k), but the Chinese government administers it.

Those participating in the program begin to receive benefits when they reach 60. It is optional to retire early, but many of those who are part of the program do retire earlier.

To round out the research, they looked at a cognitive survey in China called the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey (CHARLS). That study allowed them to see how cognitive performance was affected by retirement.

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After noticing the correlation between cognitive decline in early retirement, they went on to look for why it was happening.

They used a statistical tool known as “natural experiments” because it was impossible to do a randomized controlled trial. What was discovered is that individuals who had a pension program were lower on the score than those who lived in an area that did not offer such a program.

According to Nikolov, some benefits may be from actively using your brain while at work. Interacting with individuals also has benefits for those who are working.

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As a result of your more extensive social network and connectedness, you can keep your brain active.

After analyzing the data, Nikolov said, “Social engagement and connectedness may simply be the single most powerful factors for cognitive performance in old age.”

This study was associated with China, but additional studies are necessary from other areas to confirm if early retirement always leads to a negative impact on cognitive health.

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