As they get older, many Americans start thinking about the best time to retire.
But new research throws some warning signs into that decision — because early retirement can actually be worse. people’s health.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization suggests: early retirement May accelerate cognitive decline in late adulthood.
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“Program participants report significantly lower levels of social engagement and significantly lower rates of volunteerism and social interaction than non-beneficiaries.” New York At the time of publication, a press release about the study.
“We found that increased social isolation was strongly associated with accelerated cognitive decline. among the elderly” he also said.
This is how the study analyzed cognitive function.
With a rapidly aging population, China introduced a formal pension program in the country’s rural areas in 2009 to combat old-age poverty.
It’s called the New Rural Pension System (NRPS), Nikolov noted.
“Increased social isolation was strongly associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults.”
“Think of this program as a U.S. 401k because it is a defined contribution program with pension benefits. managed in China‘” he told Fox News Digital.
“You don’t have to participate” as this program is voluntary opt-in.
“The basic feature is that when you reach 60, you get a financial benefit, like a pension,” he pointed out.
“So you don’t have to retire early to benefit, but often [do] I can retire sooner than without the program,” he said.
Researchers analyzed the program using a cognitive study called the Chinese Longitudinal Study of Health and Retirement (CHARLS) to examine how retirement planning affects cognitive performance.
The negative effects of early retirement on mental health activities and social engagement outweighed the protective benefits on health behaviors.
Pension program participants reported a reduction in the incidence of regular drinking Compared to the previous year, the researchers found — but participants also reported lower rates of volunteerism and social interaction compared to non-beneficiaries.
They also noted that increased social isolation was strongly associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults.
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The study concluded that the negative effects of early retirement on mental fitness activities and social engagement outweighed the protective benefits on health behavior.
The study and study design aimed to detect the true causal relationship of retirement to cognitive impairment.
The researchers found that the most important indicator of cognitive decline was memory delay, which previous studies have shown to be important. signs of dementia.
Nikolov and his team said their study and study design aimed to detect the true causality of retirement to cognitive impairment.
“One of the most difficult problems in economic and social science research is determining whether the relationship between two variables is causal or chance,” says Nikolov, who now lives in Washington, DC.
teasing cause and effect
However, understanding the causes and consequences of economic or policy decisions is often impossible, and randomized controlled trials of policies are often impractical or ethically impossible. A press release from the study points out.
for example, Randomized controlled trial — The gold standard in research to show the effectiveness of a treatment or intervention — According to the National Institutes of Health, participants are randomly assigned to a treatment or control group without knowing their group.
To derive cause and effect when randomized trials are not possible, economists use a method called the “natural experiment.”
It uses random events or real-world situations to create events or policies that can mimic controlled experiments, Nikolov told Fox News Digital.
He said the application of natural experiments to unravel causality was so influential that the team of economists who first introduced the method won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Why early retirement exacerbates cognitive decline
Nikolov noted that using this statistical tool, researchers were able to examine how the decision to retire affects cognition by comparing the two groups.
They compared one group of people of similar age and socioeconomic characteristics. pension system — and another group with similar characteristics living in areas where pension programs do not exist.
“When I go to work, I’m using my brain, and in some ways, going to work improves my mental capacity.”
Individuals in areas with pension programs scored significantly lower than those living in areas without programs.
These results were surprising, as they were similar to findings of the same phenomenon in high-income countries and regions such as the United States, Great Britain, and the United States. European Union.
Benefits of interacting with others
“When I go to work, I actively use my brain,” Nikolov told Fox News Digital. There is,” he said.
The study also highlights the benefits of socializing with other people as we age.
“When we interact with people, there are at least two factors that are beneficial to you,” he added.
The first part is social interaction, “Social connections can create a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being”.
He added, “A second benefit of larger social networks is that interacting with friends and family naturally increases mental and intellectual stimulation.
“There is strong evidence that retirement has important benefits, but it also comes at a significant cost.”
He also said in a press release about the study: It is the most powerful factor for cognitive performance in old age. “
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Nikolov also said in the release:
He also said the researchers “hope to influence policy makers. They’re showing solid evidence that retirement has important benefits. But it also comes at a significant cost.” rice field.
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Nikolov told Fox News Digital that more research is needed before the findings can be generalized outside of China.
“Although the survey was designed to be representative of China, it is very difficult to generalize from this study as to how similar program deployments translate to cognitive health in other populations. [that exhibit] very different socioeconomic characteristics. “