It might feel like work is killing you, but it’s also giving your brain mental exercise that could help keep you sharp in the future. A wide-ranging study from France has found that those who retired later had a lower risk of developing dementia, the condition of mental deterioration whose leading cause is Alzheimer’s disease. These new findings are consistent with past studies that have discovered the importance of keeping the brain active in order to reduce the risk of cognition-related disorders in old age.
The research conducted by Carole Dufouil, the director of research in neuroepidemiology at France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and her colleagues at the Bordeaux School of Public Health, analyzed data from more than 429,000 self-employed workers in retirement and found conclusive evidence to associate later retirement with a lower risk of dementia. The results of the study were presented on Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Boston.
“Our data show strong evidence of a significant decrease in the risk of developing dementia associated with older age at retirement, in line with the ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis,” said Dufouil. “The patterns were even stronger when we focused on more recent birth cohorts.”
The study found that those who retired at 65 were 14% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who retired at 60, and overall measured a 3.2% decrease in cases for each year retirement was delayed. The study dismissed the possibility that the people who retired early did so due to their mental decline by doing analyses that removed those who developed dementia within 5 or 10 years of retirement, and found that the trend was the same.
This discovery doesn’t mean that you should keep working past your personal limits, but it does demonstrate that work isn’t necessarily a burden for you as you age. Either way, Alzheimer’s and dementia research has shown the importance of engaging in mental stimulation and social engagement, however you come by it.
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