Use it or lose it–adverse cognitive effects of early retirement?

Taking Early Retirement May Retire Memory, Too (excerpts from the NY Times, Online, October 11, 2010)

The two economists call their paper “Mental Retirement,” and their argument has intrigued behavioral researchers. Data from the United States, England and 11 other European countries suggest that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memories decline…

Researchers repeatedly find that retired people as a group tend to do less well on cognitive tests than people who are still working. But, they note, that could be because people whose memories and thinking skills are declining may be more likely to retire than people whose cognitive skills remain sharp…

The researchers find a straight-line relationship between the percentage of people in a country who are working at age 60 to 64 and their performance on memory tests. The longer people in a country keep working, the better, as a group, they do on the tests when they are in their early 60s…

And of course not all work is mentally stimulating. But, Dr. Willis said, work has other aspects that might be operating.

“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,” he said. “They go hand in hand with the work environment.”

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