One of my favorite National Public Radio programs is called Freakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything. Well, for those still working well into the traditional retirement years, there could be an unexpected upside: a study out this past Monday shows seniors who continue working significantly reduce their risk of developing dementia.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston, a lead scientist with the French government’s health agency presented findings from nearly a half million French workers, whose average age was 74.
The unusually large study showed that for each year a person worked past the traditional retirement age, the risk of developing dementia dropped by over 3 percent. Translated into hard numbers, a person retiring at age 65 was 15% less likely to show signs of cognitive decline than was someone retiring at 60.
To control for the possibility that an onset of memory decline prompted retirement, the study ran two sets of numbers. One set calculated how many subjects developed dementia within five years following retirement, and a second set of numbers analyzed how many developed dementia within ten years following retirement.
The trend line remained constant, implicating retirement as the cause of decline rather than mental decline as the cause of retirement.
Though the French study was based upon an unusually large data set, years’ worth of research has shown that maintaining social interaction, and remaining physically and mentally engaged are vitally important to lowering the risk of mental decline. Remaining in the workforce may be an effective way of accomplishing all three recommended activities.
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