Early retirement may help to reverse cognitive decline, according to research

Early retirement may help to reverse cognitive decline, according to research ...

According to a recent research, retirement plans might have unexpected negative effects. According to the study, access to retirement plans can significantly contribute to cognitive decline in older adults.

According to a survey conducted by faculty at Binghamton University and the State University of New York, early retirement may decrease cognitive decline among the elderly.

To assess how retirement plans affect cognitive performance among plan participants, Plamen Nikolov, an assistant professor of economics, and Shahadath Hossain, a doctoral student in economics from Binghamton University. CHARLS, a nationally representative survey of people ages 45 and over in China, tests cognition directly with a focus on episodic memory and components of intact mental health.

The elderly population has become the most significant demographic source in Asia and Latin America, generating an urgent need for new, sustainable retirement arrangements, although Nikolov's research suggests that these retirement plans may have unexpected downstream effects.

China established a formal retirement program (called NRPS) in rural areas of the country in order to combat poverty in old age, according to Nikolov. "In rural areas of the country, traditional family-based care for the elderly had largely broken down, with inadequate formal mechanisms to replace it."

Nikolov and his team discovered that the new retirement program had significant adverse effects on cognitive functioning among elderly people, according to the mental retirement hypothesis, which suggests decreased mental activity results in diminished cognitive abilities.

Nikolov and his co-authors concluded that pension benefits and retirement aid in better health, but that the program also induced a far greater and more detrimental effect on other dimensions, including social participation.

"We find that increasing social isolation is strongly linked with faster cognitive decline among elderly people." Nikolov continues: "Otherwise, social engagement and connectedness may be the single most powerful factors for cognitive performance in old age."

Nikolov and his colleagues used a technique called natural experiments to study how people of similar age and socioeconomic backgrounds performed in situations where the pension program did not exist.

"In the almost 10 years since its introduction, individuals in areas that do not have the NRPS program have scored significantly lower than individuals who live in areas that do not have the NRPS program," Nikolov said.

Surprisingly, the program effects were similar to the negative findings about the same phenomenon, but in higher-income countries such as America, England, and the European Union, which Nikolov said demonstrates that retirement affects people in different areas in more similar ways than we previously thought.

"We were surprised to learn that pension benefits and retirement actually resulted in reduced cognitive performance." "The fact that retirement led to decreased cognitive performance in and of itself is a remarkable insight about an unsuspected, unsolved problem.

Nikolov said he expects that this research will inform future policies that would enhance elderly people's cognitive functioning in the retirement years.

"We hope that our findings will influence how retirees perceive their retirement lives from a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of social involvement, active volunteering, and involvement in activities that foster their mental acuity," said the author. "Retirement, even if not severe, can result in a loss of quality of life and can have negative welfare effects."

Nikolov intends to continue research on this topic and investigate how the introduction of pension benefits influenced changes in labor participation among elderly people in rural China.

Plamen Nikolov and Md Shahadath Hossain, "Do pension benefits accelerate cognitive decline in late adulthood?" Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 12 December 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.jebo.2022.11.025

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