Later Retirement May Help Prevent Dementia

According to a new study, people who delay retirement may have less risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. The study of nearly half a million people was conducted in France.

An article by the Associated Press reports that researchers say the conclusion makes sense. Working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged — all things known to help prevent mental decline.

“For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent,” said Carole Dufouil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government’s health research agency. Dufouil led the study and recently presented results at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston.

Worldwide, about 35 million people have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. In the French study, researchers analyzed health and insurance records of more than 429,000 self-employed workers— most of whom were shopkeepers or craftsmen such as bakers and woodworkers. Study participants were age 74 on average and had been retired for an average of 12 years.

According to Dufouil, nearly three percent had developed dementia, but the risk was lower for each year of age at retirement. Someone who retired at 65 had about a 15 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to someone retiring at 60.

Americans are increasingly putting off retirement, especially those in the middle class. According to a 2012 Wells Fargo survey of 1,000 Americans earning less than $100,000 annually, almost one-third said they’d need to work until age 80 to live comfortably in retirement.

But Dufouil’s research, which linked health and pension databases of self-employed workers who were retired as of 2010, puts a positive spin on that choice.

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