July 17, 2013

Retire Early, Increase Your Dementia Risk?

Could half a million Frenchmen be wrong?

That’s about how many workers were included a recent study -- reported in a July 15 Huffington Post article -- that suggests retiring later might help forestall or prevent dementia.

Carole Dufouil, a scientist at INSERM (the French government's health research agency) served as the study’s lead researcher and presented the findings at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston on July 15, 2013. She said: "For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent."

It’s a conclusion that’s difficult to challenge, since working people stay physically active, socially connected, and mentally challenged. Those are all factors known to have positive effects on cognitive health.

Vive the French Record-Keeping
France maintains excellent medical records for all who participate in its national healthcare system, including the self-employed. In this case, Dufouil’s team examined the records of over 429,000 workers – median age 74 -- who had been retired for an average of 12 years. Most of the subjects performed work that kept them physically active; there were many shopkeepers, bakers, and woodworkers in the mix.

About 3% had developed dementia since retiring, but that risk declined with higher retirement ages. Someone who clocked out once and for all at age 65 was about 15% less likely to develop dementia than a worker who bailed out at 60.

It’s natural to wonder if workers experiencing cognitive impairment might retire earlier. To rule out that possibility, study leaders excluded workers who showed signs of dementia 5-10 years within their retirement dates.

Think Before You Take Your Leave
Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, warned that the study doesn’t mean people should keep working as long as they can:
It's more staying cognitively active, staying socially active, continue to be engaged in whatever it is that's enjoyable to you that's important. My parents are retired but they're busier than ever. They're taking classes at their local university, they're continuing to attend lectures and they're continuing to stay cognitively engaged and socially engaged in their lives.
I second Heather's comments. I'm glad I retired at 65. But I've worked pretty hard to stay active and engaged both mentally and physically. I've nurtured my friendships. I suspect I invest as much time and effort into this blog as many people who continue working after 65 put into their jobs. The research and writing have also been more fun and enlightening than many jobs I had through the years.

Is it all helping to forestall or avoid dementia? Only time will tell.

No comments: