Author Topic: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?  (Read 7891 times)

stackorstarve

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Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« on: June 03, 2017, 09:38:16 AM »
Article on cognitive decline name drops MMM: Article: http://twocents.lifehacker.com/why-early-retirement-isn-t-as-awesome-as-it-sounds-1795743837 It's not quite Antimustachian but I think the blogger makes an argument that MMM has covered in one of his articles anyway.

So came across the above article talking about cognitive decline in retirement. I've heard this argument in the forum relatively often but I don't buy it for a few reasons.

TL;DR: No research for 30-40 year old early retirees. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary. Even if cognitive decline happens, it's not necessarily worth stress from job, worries about money, etc.

1. "Early retirement" in research is often defined as ~54 when many of us are planning to retire earlier. The article above construes this to mean retiring in your 30s and 40s would be even worse for cognitive decline, but that's unfounded; the research doesn't study that age group.

2. The research only considers data for retirees in their 50s (cause not a significant of us Mustatchians in the population yet). The social stigmatization and public policy effects on the retirement age puts them pretty close to the retirement age anyway. And the research suggests that when looking forward to retirement, soon-to-be-retirees begin their cognitive decline early. But it would not be fair to say that cognitive decline would necessarily kick in, early or otherwise, for those who retire with a significant portion of their lives ahead of them.

3. "Retirement" is not explicitly defined in the research, but I'm assuming it's going with the "I'm retired which means I just lie in a hammock all day" definition that people generally use. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary, mentally or physically. Something I thought was pretty clear in MMM's articles was that retirement can be the most meaningful and active time of your life. Which is the conclusion that the article comes to, but it clearly stems from a poor understanding of MMM's philosophy. He often discusses how retirement just means you're not financially chained to a job anymore and can start working in whatever you're passionate about (i.e. less profitable jobs) without worry about the money coming in (my favorite upside I'm looking forward to in early retirement).

4. And even if I concede the cognitive decline point, the way the article looks at what it considers a downside to retirement is also wrong. For example, is avoiding cognitive decline worse than the stress of an unwanted job? Maybe you find out later that you're not so passionate about your field anymore. Is having the worry-free ability to leave the job and find new work worth the cognitive decline? Everything in life is a trade-off. That's how we should be making decisions. So what if my cognition declines? As long as I'm happy and healthy, what's the big deal? These are obviously going to be based on what an individual values so there's no right answer.

What do y'all think?

MrsWolfeRN

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2017, 10:16:24 AM »
A lot of the research on this topic was done with nuns, who maintain their cognitive abilities much better than other adults their age. One hypothesis is that it is because they continue to work into old age. Other reasons could be that they tend to be educated, do not​ have as many bad habits as the general population, and tend to take care of their health. They are also not as susceptible to social isolation as regular people, and they are not too self-conscious to wear their hearing aids. They also never have to worry about money as the community cares for them into old age.

Nangirl17

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2017, 10:29:35 AM »
Obviously anecdotal, but I personally notice a difference in my cognition after only a month away from work.

I wouldn't advocate against early retirement, but definitely I want to do something that keeps the mind in gear. Now that my work-life balance is healthy, I'm considering working far longer than I had originally planned, partially because I enjoy the work (especially when I don't have to work too much!), but partially because I wonder if I need the stimulation.
 

Freedomin5

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2017, 07:05:17 AM »
I think cognitive stimulation is the key to slowing down cognitive decline, not necessarily work per se. For example, there are some studies suggesting that doing Sudoku or crosswords stave off cognitive decline.

https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/04/16/puzzles-may-be-best-way-to-slow-cognitive-decline-in-seniors/53783.html

And from the National Institutes of Health: https://consensus.nih.gov/2010/alzstatement.htm

Quote
What factors are associated with the reduction of risk of cognitive decline in older adults?

Cognition is a combination of skills that include attention, learning, memory, language, visuospatial skills, and executive function, such as decisionmaking, goal setting, planning, and judgment. Decline in cognition ranges from severe dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, to mild cognitive impairment and age-related cognitive decline. Cognitive decline is multicausal, and mild cognitive impairment does not always progress to dementia. Neuropsychological testing for the above-mentioned skills over varying time periods has been the predominant method for the evaluation of cognitive change, but functional cognitive decline is only moderately associated with pathologic changes typical of Alzheimer’s disease. The idea of cognitive reserve (the mind’s resilience to neuropathologic damage of the brain) explains variances in ability to cope physiologically and mentally with existing pathology. Despite the hopeful insights provided by this concept, these issues complicate attempts to design robust studies to determine factors that might prevent cognitive decline.

What We Know

For most factors, existing studies either show no association with cognitive decline or provide inconclusive evidence. Where an association was seen, the overall quality of the evidence is low.
 
Nutritional and Dietary Factors. The available evidence does not support a clear role for most of the nutritional and dietary factors that have been examined. The most consistent evidence is available for longer chain omega-3 fatty acids (often measured as fish consumption), with several longitudinal studies showing an association with reduced risk for cognitive decline. For the other factors, the evidence varies from no consistent association (vitamin B, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, and beta-carotene) to very limited evidence suggesting a possible protective effect (low saturated fat and high vegetable intake).

Medical Factors. Several cardiovascular risk factors have been consistently associated with increased risk for cognitive decline. High blood pressure has been most consistently associated with cognitive decline, and particularly with severe cognitive decline. Diabetes also has been associated with an increased risk for cognitive decline, but this association is modest and less consistent. The metabolic syndrome, a cluster of metabolic abnormalities, has been consistently associated with a modest risk for cognitive decline. For other medical factors, good-quality studies are lacking (for example, sleep apnea and traumatic brain injury) or findings have been inconclusive (for example, obesity).

Psychological and Emotional Health. Depression and depressive symptoms have been consistently found to be associated with mild cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.

Medications. No consistent epidemiologic evidence exists for an association with statins, antihypertensive medications, or anti-inflammatory drugs. Data are insufficient to comment on cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine. Existing reports are difficult to interpret because of variation in formulations, dosage, duration, route of administration (as for postmenopausal estrogens), and drug treatment effect (for example, antihypertensive medications).

Socioeconomic Factors. Childhood socioeconomic status or cognitive milieu does not appear to strongly influence cognitive decline later in life. Evidence on the putative association between years of education and cognitive decline is inconsistent.

Social and Cognitive Engagement. Whereas findings on the association of cognitive decline with living alone or being without a partner are inconsistent, a robust association exists between the loss of a spouse and cognitive decline. Limited but inconsistent evidence suggests that increased involvement in cognitive activities in later life may be associated with slower cognitive decline and lower risk for mild cognitive impairment.

Physical Activity and Other Leisure Activities. Preliminary evidence suggests beneficial associations of physical activity and other leisure activities (such as club membership, religious services, painting, or gardening) with preservation of cognitive function.

Tobacco and Alcohol Use. Evidence indicates that current smoking is associated with increased risk for cognitive decline; evidence for past smoking is less consistent. Findings on the association between cognitive decline and alcohol use are inconsistent.

Genetic Factors. Most studies suggest that the ApoE gene variation is associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in elderly persons, especially on some memory tasks and tasks of perceptual speed. The ApoE gene variation does not seem to affect all cognitive domains, and there is variability among studies.

My takeaway is that traditional "retirement activities" such as playing with grandkids, playing golf, traveling and experiencing new cultures, gardening, etc. could also slow down cognitive decline. Also, when you consider the research, to me, what it means is that I should:

1. Avoid activities that give me high blood pressure, like stressful jobs/work environments.
2. Do things to keep me emotionally healthy and stave off depression.
3. Try not to have my spouse die before me.
4. Be physically active and participate in leisure activities.
5. Don't smoke.

These activities seem to be achievable through traditional retirement activities as well as some work environments.

arebelspy

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2017, 11:38:15 AM »
The lifehacker article title was misleading. It should have been something like "One thing to watch out for in Early Retirement."  Instead calling it "Why Early Retirement Isn't As Awesome As It Sounds" makes it sound like ER will suck.  How silly.

That being said, it was a good article.

My response on Lifehacker and the original blog's comment section:
Quote
You definitely want to keep your brain sharp, but that doesn’t mean early retirement isn’t as awesome as it sounds.

There’s TONS to do in ER that will keep your brain sharp. Hobbies, new interests, continual learning, volunteer work, sports, relationship growth, personal growth, etc. etc.

Early Retirement gives you the TIME to do these things. I’d worry about a brain atrophying while doing the same monotonous work in a cubicle for decades more so than it atrophying in early retirement, with the many options available to you.

Retirement doesn’t mean you do nothing, it means you can do anything! :)

The seemed to disagree that you could stay sharp, based on the research quoted, so I asked:
Quote
Okay, thought experiment time.

Let's pretend for a second that some cognitive decline in ER is not only true, but inevitable (i.e. nothing you can do will keep you sharp except paid work). I'm very skeptical, but let's go with it for this thought experiment.

Here's your choices then:
1) Work until you're 70 at a 9-5, 40-50 hour/week job. Stay mentally "sharp".
2) Early retire at 30-40. Have an extra 3 to 4 decades of freedom, and spend the bulk of your life doing whatever you want. Experience some cognitive decline (which in this scenario is unavoidable).

Which do you choose?

I don't know about you, but I'll take number two every time. Even if there is cognitive decline, and it's unavoidable, I'd still prefer total freedom, travel, hobbies, etc. over staying "sharp" and going to work day in and day out for decades more.

And, again, I'm betting just being aware of it will help one stave it off.

But to each their own. If staying mentally sharp until the day you die is the point of life to you, and you think a job is the way to do that, go nuts! :)

I'm betting most people would take option two in my scenario though.

This is a very similar question to the title of the thread:
Quote
Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?

(Though it should probably read: "Is avoiding cognitive decline really worth working longer?")

To me, the answer is a clear "no."
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
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Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2017, 12:18:06 PM »
Article on cognitive decline name drops MMM: Article: http://twocents.lifehacker.com/why-early-retirement-isn-t-as-awesome-as-it-sounds-1795743837 It's not quite Antimustachian but I think the blogger makes an argument that MMM has covered in one of his articles anyway.

So came across the above article talking about cognitive decline in retirement. I've heard this argument in the forum relatively often but I don't buy it for a few reasons.

TL;DR: No research for 30-40 year old early retirees. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary. Even if cognitive decline happens, it's not necessarily worth stress from job, worries about money, etc.

1. "Early retirement" in research is often defined as ~54 when many of us are planning to retire earlier. The article above construes this to mean retiring in your 30s and 40s would be even worse for cognitive decline, but that's unfounded; the research doesn't study that age group.

2. The research only considers data for retirees in their 50s (cause not a significant of us Mustatchians in the population yet). The social stigmatization and public policy effects on the retirement age puts them pretty close to the retirement age anyway. And the research suggests that when looking forward to retirement, soon-to-be-retirees begin their cognitive decline early. But it would not be fair to say that cognitive decline would necessarily kick in, early or otherwise, for those who retire with a significant portion of their lives ahead of them.

3. "Retirement" is not explicitly defined in the research, but I'm assuming it's going with the "I'm retired which means I just lie in a hammock all day" definition that people generally use. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary, mentally or physically. Something I thought was pretty clear in MMM's articles was that retirement can be the most meaningful and active time of your life. Which is the conclusion that the article comes to, but it clearly stems from a poor understanding of MMM's philosophy. He often discusses how retirement just means you're not financially chained to a job anymore and can start working in whatever you're passionate about (i.e. less profitable jobs) without worry about the money coming in (my favorite upside I'm looking forward to in early retirement).

4. And even if I concede the cognitive decline point, the way the article looks at what it considers a downside to retirement is also wrong. For example, is avoiding cognitive decline worse than the stress of an unwanted job? Maybe you find out later that you're not so passionate about your field anymore. Is having the worry-free ability to leave the job and find new work worth the cognitive decline? Everything in life is a trade-off. That's how we should be making decisions. So what if my cognition declines? As long as I'm happy and healthy, what's the big deal? These are obviously going to be based on what an individual values so there's no right answer.

What do y'all think?

Excellent thoughts here, and it's neat to see a thread on the interview on the forums.

Excusing the self-promotion, my personal feelings on what to do with Rohwedder and Willis' research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/) are on my blog post, and of course in the LifeHacker piece.
http://www.donebyforty.com/2017/04/boredom-cognitive-ability-and-mental.html

Agreed on your point #1: the data set (comparing men retiring from 50-54 vs. 60-64) doesn't line up with the what seems to be a "typical" Mustachian early retirement age. And while we're on the point, the data set is only male retirees, too. Not perfect by any means.

Still, determining what conclusions we are to draw from that age disparity is tricky. If someone retires in their 40's or 30's, are they more or less likely to suffer the observed cognitive decline? As per usual, this probably points to more research being required. But we probably shouldn't assume (yet) that we are less likely to suffer cognitive decline because we are retiring earlier than 50-54.

On point #3, I don't think we can really make too many assumptions on what kind of retirements those in the experiment were leading compared to what we assume Mustachian retirement would be. Seems like a leap too far. Still, even if our average retirement is very different that their average early retirement (whatever that is), same point as above: hard to say whether this makes us more or less likely to experience cognitive decline.

On point #4, I thought the title for Wong's article was fine. The research points to a downside in early retirement: risk of cognitive decline. That clearly makes it less awesome.

However, that does not mean that those risks then point people to working until age 70, either. The costs may still be far less than those of working in a cubicle for another 30 years. I certainly think so (to answer arebelspy's/adventuringalong's question), and am continuing with my early retirement plans. I just want to do so while looking at both sides of the ledger, costs and benefits, so to speak.

I don't know how much this came through in the LifeHacker piece, but the point of the post was to highlight a potential and serious risk in early retirement, and to note that we FIRE bloggers should continue seeking out research (and writing about it) that may mitigate the risk.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 12:48:03 PM by Done by Forty »

maizeman

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2017, 01:06:09 PM »
It's always difficult to separate causes and effects in observational studies. I'm trying to figure out how, if at all, you could separate the model that people who retire early suffer cognitive decline from the model that people who are experiencing early onset cognitive decline are more likely to leave the workforce early.

Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2017, 01:10:48 PM »
It's always difficult to separate causes and effects in observational studies. I'm trying to figure out how, if at all, you could separate the model that people who retire early suffer cognitive decline from the model that people who are experiencing early onset cognitive decline are more likely to leave the workforce early.

Just quoting from Rohwedder and Willis here, but I think this is how they tackle that particular point:

"Policy variation that affects the timing of retirement is ideally suited as an instrument, but such variation is rarely found – at least within a single country—because pension or Social Security reforms are rare. But across countries the policies that influence timing of retirement vary substantially, and the patterns in Figure 1 show convincingly that such differences in national policies lend themselves to the study of the effect of retirement on cognition. The evidence in Figure 1 – relating cross-country variation in cognitive performance differences of people in their early 60s and those in their early 50s to cross-country variation in differences in employment rates for the same age groups – does not rely on individual-level data, but uses country-level aggregate statistics instead. This method circumvents the most challenging identification issue inherent in cross-sectional micro-level analysis.

Our contention that the slope of this regression line may be interpreted as the causal effect of early retirement on cognitive decline stems from the well-established result that a substantial part of cross-country variation in retirement comes from public policy. Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that cross-country differences in age or cohort effects or in the rate of self-selection into retirement as a function of cognitive performance could be responsible for the large variation in employment differentials."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/

stackorstarve

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2017, 01:12:23 PM »


Article on cognitive decline name drops MMM: Article: http://twocents.lifehacker.com/why-early-retirement-isn-t-as-awesome-as-it-sounds-1795743837 It's not quite Antimustachian but I think the blogger makes an argument that MMM has covered in one of his articles anyway.

So came across the above article talking about cognitive decline in retirement. I've heard this argument in the forum relatively often but I don't buy it for a few reasons.

TL;DR: No research for 30-40 year old early retirees. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary. Even if cognitive decline happens, it's not necessarily worth stress from job, worries about money, etc.

1. "Early retirement" in research is often defined as ~54 when many of us are planning to retire earlier. The article above construes this to mean retiring in your 30s and 40s would be even worse for cognitive decline, but that's unfounded; the research doesn't study that age group.

2. The research only considers data for retirees in their 50s (cause not a significant of us Mustatchians in the population yet). The social stigmatization and public policy effects on the retirement age puts them pretty close to the retirement age anyway. And the research suggests that when looking forward to retirement, soon-to-be-retirees begin their cognitive decline early. But it would not be fair to say that cognitive decline would necessarily kick in, early or otherwise, for those who retire with a significant portion of their lives ahead of them.

3. "Retirement" is not explicitly defined in the research, but I'm assuming it's going with the "I'm retired which means I just lie in a hammock all day" definition that people generally use. Retirement doesn't have to be sedentary, mentally or physically. Something I thought was pretty clear in MMM's articles was that retirement can be the most meaningful and active time of your life. Which is the conclusion that the article comes to, but it clearly stems from a poor understanding of MMM's philosophy. He often discusses how retirement just means you're not financially chained to a job anymore and can start working in whatever you're passionate about (i.e. less profitable jobs) without worry about the money coming in (my favorite upside I'm looking forward to in early retirement).

4. And even if I concede the cognitive decline point, the way the article looks at what it considers a downside to retirement is also wrong. For example, is avoiding cognitive decline worse than the stress of an unwanted job? Maybe you find out later that you're not so passionate about your field anymore. Is having the worry-free ability to leave the job and find new work worth the cognitive decline? Everything in life is a trade-off. That's how we should be making decisions. So what if my cognition declines? As long as I'm happy and healthy, what's the big deal? These are obviously going to be based on what an individual values so there's no right answer.

What do y'all think?

Excellent thoughts here, and it's neat to see a thread on the interview on the forums.

Excusing the self-promotion, my personal feelings on what to do with Rohwedder and Willis' research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/) are on my blog post, and of course in the LifeHacker piece.
http://www.donebyforty.com/2017/04/boredom-cognitive-ability-and-mental.html

...

On point #4, I thought the title for Wong's article was fine. The research points to a downside in early retirement: risk of cognitive decline. That clearly makes it less awesome.

However, that does not mean that those risks then point people to working until age 70, either. The costs may still be far less than those of working in a cubicle for another 30 years. I certainly think so (to answer arebelspy's/adventuringalong's question), and am continuing with my early retirement plans. I just want to do so while looking at both sides of the ledger, costs and benefits, so to speak.

I don't know how much this came through in the LifeHacker piece, but the point of the post was to highlight a potential and serious risk in early retirement, and to note that we FIRE bloggers should continue seeking out research (and writing about it) that may mitigate the risk.

Great blog post! I agree with all of your points. On point 4, I do actually think the article was good. I think it just showed a common misunderstanding of what retirement should be like. I think it's reflected in the sentiment that your job is your purpose in life and retirement is your reward for your time working. Once that idea breaks down (it might be already), people might think of retirement as financial freedom from a job rather than the end of the tunnel.

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maizeman

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2017, 01:17:58 PM »
Thanks Done by Forty! Yes, that's a clever way to handle it and I agree it gets around the issue I was talking about of separating cause from effect.

Wish they'd put r-squared and p-values on their scatterplot, but you can't ask for everything.

stackorstarve

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2017, 01:22:23 PM »



...

(Though it should probably read: "Is avoiding cognitive decline really worth working longer?")

...

Lol yeah that's what I meant

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Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2017, 01:36:26 PM »
Thanks Done by Forty! Yes, that's a clever way to handle it and I agree it gets around the issue I was talking about of separating cause from effect.

Wish they'd put r-squared and p-values on their scatterplot, but you can't ask for everything.

I think this may be what you're looking for:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/figure/F6/


Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2017, 02:37:20 PM »
Obviously anecdotal, but I personally notice a difference in my cognition after only a month away from work.

I wouldn't advocate against early retirement, but definitely I want to do something that keeps the mind in gear. Now that my work-life balance is healthy, I'm considering working far longer than I had originally planned, partially because I enjoy the work (especially when I don't have to work too much!), but partially because I wonder if I need the stimulation.

Thanks for sharing this perspective. It's in line with what I would expect from reading the original source material: that there's something about work that challenges and motivates us. I'm not yet entirely convinced that I can emulate the benefits (i.e. - staving off cognitive decline) with things I would put in the "leisure" category rather than the "work" category: hobbies, boardgames, travel, etc. It's certainly possible, of course. But my plans now include some sort of regular, meaningful work, too.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 02:44:03 PM by Done by Forty »

Dicey

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2017, 07:36:13 AM »
Er, I retired at 54...and I haven't noticed any changes in my, um, brain. I can still think as good as ever. Um, what was the question again?

Nangirl17

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2017, 08:54:41 AM »

The same goes for a job. You're assuming work in an of itself is always challenging and stimulating and thus will ward off cognitive decline. However, for many people, "working" consists of waking, commuting, sitting all day staring at a screen or putting one widget into another widget before commuting again and spending  the evening staring at a screen before going to bed. Only to do it all again day after day after day for decades. Tedium. Boredom. Repetition. Stress. Obligation. Timelines. Deadlines. Bad bosses. Terrible coworkers. Long commutes. Lack of free time. Lack of family time. Lack of petsonal time. And so on...for decades! Not always the stuff to stave off mental decline.


I am making that assumption... I sometimes forget a lot of jobs out there are just terrible. My work is so stimulating and engages so many parts of myself (physically, mentally, emotionally), that nothing else in my life demands so much of me, so I feel myself declining when I'm away from it. I guess there will be a time when I will not desire that level of stimulation, but right now (because I have a healthy work-life balance) I am okay with it.

Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2017, 09:21:26 AM »
Instead of meaningful work (job/employment) why not look for ways to have a meaningful early retirement?

But that's what I'm doing. Indeed, my idea of meaningful financial independence  involves some meaningful work.

The same goes for a job. You're assuming work in an of itself is always challenging and stimulating and thus will ward off cognitive decline.

Hmmm, I respectfully disagree. The researchers observed mental decline in early retirees that they did not see at the same rates in countries with those who retired later in life. I make no assumptions as to why (Rohwedder and Willis pose two possible hypotheses at the end of the paper), but the data is the data.

Let me flip that question around. What makes us Mustachian early retirees confident about our early retirement plans staving off the cognitive decline found in this longitudinal study? Why do we assume this trend, while applying to other early retirees, would not apply to us? Isn't that the questionable assumption that's being made in this discussion?

It's certainly possible that we Mustachians are right: that there is something unique about our approach that will generally stave off this decline. I'll happily concede that possibility. But is that hypothesis tested in a controlled manner? Are we making data-based decisions, or, perhaps, just defending life choices we think are right when confronted with a study that yields an unpleasant result?

Retirement itself is a fairly novel thing. Extremely early retirement is downright nascent. We should expect there will be a whole host of unique issues might not be observable as trends for some time, until data can be gathered on large enough groups of people retiring in their 20's, 30's and 40's.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 09:41:40 AM by Done by Forty »

MgoSam

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2017, 09:33:30 AM »
Arebelspy, perfectly agree with your thought experiment.

I will also argue that the stress of working will likely contribute to far worse mental instability later in life than being a little idle. I am a little worried about losing track of things after I retire. For instance working helps me remember what day of the week it is and what the date is, things that I'm sure I'll keep track of after I stop working, but with a work schedule I don't have to think what day of the week it is, I instantly know because I have things to do each day.

That said, by filling my free time with activities and hobbies I'm certain to be alright. My working friends will be a good reminder of when the weekend is because that's when I'll be most likely to be able to see them. My gym has different classes on different days so that will help me know which day of the week it is, and I'm sure I'll find additional hobbies to fill my time.

My tenant retired from his full time job at the end of the year. He spent the first 45 days watching TV from morning until evening and then went and found a volunteering job at a nonprofit that takes up most of his time and is planning vacations. People can be as idle as they want to be, but having some purpose will help. I just think it is sad that one's job is now considered a purpose. It's one thing if you absolutely love your job, but it isn't my identity nor is it my purpose for being.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2017, 11:00:47 AM »
I think the problem with this study/data, as already mentioned above by others, is that they don't have enough early retirees (those who retired in their 40s or younger),as well as a long enough time frame in retirement, to have any meaningful data. That coupled with "why" the people they did study (those 55) retired early in the first place. Was it to just stop working a job they didn't like?  General dissatisfaction with life and depression? Inability to keep up with a fast track career and changing work conditions? Was it due to illness or disability? The need to be a caretaker to an I'll or disabled spouse, child or grandchild, or elderly parent?

Lots of reasons for cognitive decline that have nothing to do with the age the person retires at. This study is too much like the ones that say early retirees will all physically decline and die much earlier than people who work until death. Those studies ALWAYS leave out the reason one retires early in.the first place and also generally looks at older retirees.

Agreed on the first point: as I stated myself, the ages of those studied doesn't match up with the "typical" Mustachian early retiree. And hey, they only studied men. More research on the subject would be welcome. But we should understand that a 30 or 40 year longitudinal study on extremely early retirees might not be here for a long while. It'll take a lot of work and decades of time. We have to use the research that's currently available.

But I have to disagree with your assessment that, since the longitudinal study didn't include enough very early retirees, or for "long enough", that we can conclude it doesn't have "any meaningful data". That seems like a reach, and a contrived conclusion.

If one's takeaway is that the study's early retirees (50-54) doesn't match up with the ages of Mustachian early retirees (say, 30s to 40s on average, perhaps) it raises an obvious question. Why would we assume that we'd have the good outcome from those working late in life (i.e. - lessened cognitive decline for those working until later in life) rather than the poor outcome observed in the early retirees (i.e - those leaving work in their 50's and suffering cognitive decline)? Acknowledging that Mustachians don't line up perfectly with either group, it seems odd  to assume we'd be more like the group working very late in life, when the alternative is another group of early retirees.

You noted that "[l]ots of reasons for cognitive decline that have nothing to do with the age the person retires at." Undoubtedly. But this study was looking precisely at cognitive decline correlating (or if you believe the researchers conclusion, caused by) an early retirement. So while there are surely a bunch of reasons for cognitive decline, those weren't the focus of the study or the post.

Regarding the call to look at the reason for early retirement, what kind of study would satisfy that requirement? Would you rely on self-reported data? e.g. - "I retired because of one of these multiple choice reasons?" I ask because most self-reported data comes with a built-in criticism: you can't really trust people to know or share the real reason for something like that.

I really appreciate the honest cost-benefit analysis being put forth by arebelspy in this thread: that cognitive decline very well might be a cost for early retirees, but that the benefits of financial independence outweigh those possible costs. That seems like a perfectly reasonable conclusion and an interesting thought experiment.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 11:26:44 AM by Done by Forty »

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2017, 12:23:28 PM »
Not meant to offend, but did you read Rohwedder and Willis' paper? They address the "what if people retired early because of cognitive decline" issue, as well as their take on why they feel they can make an argument for causation, not simple correlation. (I really hope this isn't taken the wrong way: I assume that the vast, vast majority of people who read either my post or the LifeHacker article did not read the source material.)

Agreed that future studies are going to be very helpful. They're just a long way off. I mainly take issue with people looking for reasons to dismiss the findings out of hand. I think it's likely that some confirmation bias is at work here, because these are not pleasant findings.

I should note that I, too, am working to retire early so I have the same desire to hope that cognitive decline is not in my future. We're definitely on the same team in this regard.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2017, 12:30:20 PM »


...

Agreed that future studies are going to be very helpful. They're just a long way off. I mainly take issue with people looking for reasons to dismiss the findings out of hand. I think it's likely that some confirmation bias is at work here, because these are not pleasant findings.

...

I think the study is robust. It's just difficult to apply the data to other age groups and iirc the  data doesn't split by field of work which may have an impact (correct me if I'm wrong). There's a lot of variables not considered. Which is ok (you can only consider so much in an experiment). It's impactful research but the research in the area is incomplete as to draw any broad conclusions.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2017, 12:35:47 PM »
Agree 100%. I'm not comfortable saying: "This definitely applies to me as someone retiring at 40."

But I'm more uncomfortable with some of the comments I read in response to this research/interview/blog post from those working towards, or already in, early retirement. Basically: if we keep mentally and socially engaged, stay busy, then this isn't likely to apply to us, and let's go ahead and assume that those in the study were not doing those things. That seems like an even worse assumption to make.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 12:38:22 PM by Done by Forty »

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #21 on: June 05, 2017, 12:49:33 PM »
Agree 100%. I'm not comfortable saying: "This definitely applies to me as someone retiring at 40."

But I'm more uncomfortable with some of the comments I read in response to this research/interview/blog post from those working towards, or already in, early retirement. Basically: if we keep mentally and socially engaged, stay busy, then this isn't likely to apply to us, and let's go ahead and assume that those in the study were not doing those things. That seems like an even worse assumption to make.
I think understanding the exact causes of the cognitive decline in retirement or pre-retirement would also be helpful in considering what kind of actions one could take in order to possible reduce the effect.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2017, 01:22:03 PM »
Totally agree. Rohwedder and Willis posit two hypotheses:

"Two Hypotheses about Mental Retirement
Why does retirement cause cognitive decline? One hypothesis is that workers engage in more mental exercise than retirees because work environments provide more cognitively challenging and stimulating environments than does the non-work environment. Indeed, recommendations that retirees maintain an engaged lifestyle, pursuing leisure activities such as playing bridge or doing crossword puzzles—“using it” to prevent “losing it”—implicitly assume that the life of a retiree may lack cognitive stimulation unless deliberate offsetting actions are taken. Thus, we shall call this explanation of the mental retirement effect the “unengaged lifestyle hypothesis.”

As we discussed at the beginning of the paper, Salthouse (2006) offers reasons to be skeptical of evidence purporting to demonstrate that mental exercise reduces the rate of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, we believe that the unengaged lifestyle hypothesis may be a plausible explanation for the mental retirement effect for several reasons. First, unlike many of the interventions discussed by Salthouse, like crossword puzzles and card games, retirement represents a major change in a person’s lifestyle and activities and thus affords the potential for a large effect. Second, the range of cross-country variation in age of retirement due to differences in policy is also large. Finally, the ten-year span between ages 50-54 and 60-64 in Figure 1 is long enough to indicate that the mental retirement effect represents a change in the rate of cognitive decline, rather than a short-term effect of retirement itself.

Human capital theory suggests another mechanism that might produce a mental retirement effect: the prospect of early retirement may bring about a decreased level of mental exercise while still on the job. Since the human capital production function requires a person to combine cognitive ability, stock of knowledge and effort to produce additional human capital, mental exercise tends to be an increasing function of the volume of investment. For workers late in their careers, the value of continuing to build work-related human capital is very sensitive to the length of the remaining working life. For example, a 50-year-old worker in the United States who expects to work until 65 has a much greater incentive to continue investing in human capital than does a worker in Italy who expects to retire at 57. Thus, we hypothesize that differences in retirement incentives across countries create a reduction in mental exercise at work that may begin well before actual retirement. We call this the “on-the-job” retirement effect.

Taken together, our two hypotheses suggest that variations in mental exercise associated with both the work environment before retirement and the home environment after retirement may causally influence components of fluid intelligence such as the memory recall measures contained in the HRS, ELSA and SHARE data used in this paper. These hypotheses would lack plausibility under the hereditarian view expressed most famously by Hernnstein and Murray (1994) that intelligence is largely fixed by genetic inheritance and is immutable. There is, however, a large body of evidence in both economics and psychology showing that the education-ability relationship is bi-directional, with education having a causal impact on ability as well as the converse. (See, for example, Neal and Johnson, 1996; Ceci, 1991).

More broadly, beginning with Flynn (1984, 1987), the existence of substantial gains in cognitive test performance across cohorts have been found in many countries, with mean-level gains on the order of one standard deviation in IQ per generation.7 Dickens and Flynn (2001) have developed a theoretical model to explain “Flynn Effects.” In their model, an individual with a small genetic advantage—say, being slightly taller—has a slightly higher chance of entering an environment that would amplify talents associated with that advantage—being picked to play basketball–so that, in effect, genes select their own environment. Feedback loops over the life cycle strengthen this relationship. In an extension of the Dickens-Flynn model to multiple abilities, Dickens (2007) states, “A general intelligence factor arises in the model because people who are better at any cognitive skill are more likely to end up in environments that cause them to develop all skills.” 8

While such selection and feedback effects are clearly critical in early childhood and during formal education, occupational choice and investment in on-the-job training mean that such effects may continue throughout the working life cycle and into retirement. In the next section, we investigate whether differences in cognitive stimulation of the environment created by variations in retirement policies generate differences in cognitive abilities across countries."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/

Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2017, 02:21:44 PM »
Ha! No worries: plenty of room to disagree on the findings.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2017, 02:59:03 PM »
Right, you're basically arguing for the Unengaged Lifestyle Hypothesis in Rohwedder and Willis' paper. I get it. There are just reasons to be skeptical of the proposed approaches for staving off the decline with mentally engaging activities in lieu of work.

"An ERee isn't 70 or 80 and there's no reason to assume your ER will look like an old person's retirement or that you'll decline any earlier than someone who keeps mentally and physically stimulated."

Possibly, but on what data or evidence do you base that on?

"I'd still say it's not ER in and of itself that causes a decline but what you do in ER instead." Maybe, but what are you basing that on?

"They are  more likely to keep mind and body highly active with a variety of things that don't require being employed at a job." Maybe, but what are you basing that on?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 04:22:06 PM by Done by Forty »

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #25 on: June 05, 2017, 06:31:53 PM »


...

However when I see that you (or others reading the "Mental Retirement" study or Life Hacker blog) are considering choosing to delay their planned ER out of fear based on one study....

...

No one's advocating that (except for some click baity titles maybe). When comes to pulling the trigger, it's definitely going to be weighing costs and benefits. This just might be one of those costs.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #26 on: June 05, 2017, 07:27:24 PM »
^^^^^EXACTLY. ^^^^^ Couldn't have said it better.

"I'm not basing it on anything. Maybe common sense, logic as I see it, a bit of personal experience as a long term early retiree, the experiences of other long term early retirees like MMM, Nord's and others, the personal.experience of older workers and retirees and the lives they've lead compared to those who have retired early."

I figured. Nothing wrong with anecdotal evidence, of course. But you're clearly holding the researchers' side of the argument to a far greater standard than you are for the evidence of your counterpoint. Warrants mentioning.


"However when I see that you (or others reading the "Mental Retirement" study or Life Hacker blog) are considering choosing to delay their planned ER out of fear based on one study"

I'm not.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 07:31:15 PM by Done by Forty »

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #27 on: June 05, 2017, 08:09:04 PM »
@ stackorstarve -- Thanks for posting this article and for this useful discussion.

The explanation involving Human Capital Theory is quite interesting. I will read the whole article. Thanks also for the links to the graphs.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #28 on: June 05, 2017, 08:50:46 PM »
The explanation involving Human Capital Theory is quite interesting. I will read the whole article. Thanks also for the links to the graphs.

Agreed. I think that's the more compelling take on a potential reason for cognitive decline with early retirees.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #29 on: June 05, 2017, 09:30:25 PM »
The explanation involving Human Capital Theory is quite interesting. I will read the whole article. Thanks also for the links to the graphs.

Agreed. I think that's the more compelling take on a potential reason for cognitive decline with early retirees.

@ Done by Forty -- I also wanted to say thanks for your excellent blog post that has stimulated this discussion. Any post that contains both "Dunning-Kruger" and "Lake Wobegon" is a must seriously read one in my book. Subscribed to your post and looking for a follow-up post when you have come up with a better plan :)

Have also skimmed through that original article you refer to. It is an interesting read. What I'd love is if there is a possibility to separate based on other factors such as professions/socio-economic status and so on. 

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #30 on: June 05, 2017, 11:09:14 PM »
I'm with Spartana on this. (Something tells me that's not the first time I say that.)

Heck I had a prior job that started great as a systems designer then quickly devolved into repetitive software testing which eventually led to the project slimming down and layoffs. During that repetitive testing phase which lasted almost 2 years, I kept saying I had to get out of there because I was losing brain cells doing that kind of work.

Luckily that testing drudgery was a big impetus to read FIRE blogs. I was always somewhat frugal and a good saver and was planning some type of full or partial ER already, but reading these types of blogs is what kept my brain cells alive during that time.

Employment isn't necessarily a cognitive enhancing endeavor...even with an engineering job.

While unemployed I took art classes and exercised more...definitely both cognitive enhancing activities...activities I have less time to focus on while employed.

And lets not talk about the cognitive dehancing (is that a word?) effects of commuting to work.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #31 on: June 06, 2017, 12:12:24 AM »
Donebyforty, thanks for bringing this study to wider attention and also your informed commentary on it. It's difficult to do this kind of population based study and disentangle the various factors (e.g. the fact that average IQ scores have been rising throughout the 20th century) and I think the authors have produced something interesting.

The fact that the study (of necessity) excludes the majority of the population (women) has some significance, I think. There is a large proportion of women aged 70+ here in the UK (and I would assume elsewhere in Europe) who have either never had full-time paid work, or who left the labour force when they married or became mothers. Clearly, those women were working - they did the physical & mental work of running a household and in most cases the emotional work of raising children. I don't believe there's any evidence that women's cognitive functions decline more rapidly than men, or that there is an observable difference in rate of decline between those women who worked outside the home and those who did not (for that generation, at least.) So I would conclude that paid work is not the main factor.

I've seen other studies showing links between outcomes for elderly people (in terms of health, longevity, cognitive function etc.) with physical activity, wealth/status and social connections. It seems to me that the traditional retirement model for men potentially involved the loss of any or all of these and so perhaps it's not surprising that at the whole population level, this correlation is observed.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #32 on: June 06, 2017, 08:51:04 AM »
Since when is 'cognitive ability' the goal in life...I thought happiness was.

Maybe if you are not working 50 hours a week you don't need as good of a memory.

I'm gonna retire early and take my chances ;)

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #33 on: June 06, 2017, 09:59:32 AM »
The explanation involving Human Capital Theory is quite interesting. I will read the whole article. Thanks also for the links to the graphs.

Agreed. I think that's the more compelling take on a potential reason for cognitive decline with early retirees.

@ Done by Forty -- I also wanted to say thanks for your excellent blog post that has stimulated this discussion. Any post that contains both "Dunning-Kruger" and "Lake Wobegon" is a must seriously read one in my book. Subscribed to your post and looking for a follow-up post when you have come up with a better plan :)

Have also skimmed through that original article you refer to. It is an interesting read. What I'd love is if there is a possibility to separate based on other factors such as professions/socio-economic status and so on.

Ha! Glad someone else liked the Lake Wobegon reference. :)

Yeah, disaggregated data would be neat to look at, for sure. I wonder if that's available, honestly...

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #34 on: June 06, 2017, 10:04:25 AM »
Donebyforty, thanks for bringing this study to wider attention and also your informed commentary on it. It's difficult to do this kind of population based study and disentangle the various factors (e.g. the fact that average IQ scores have been rising throughout the 20th century) and I think the authors have produced something interesting.

The fact that the study (of necessity) excludes the majority of the population (women) has some significance, I think. There is a large proportion of women aged 70+ here in the UK (and I would assume elsewhere in Europe) who have either never had full-time paid work, or who left the labour force when they married or became mothers. Clearly, those women were working - they did the physical & mental work of running a household and in most cases the emotional work of raising children. I don't believe there's any evidence that women's cognitive functions decline more rapidly than men, or that there is an observable difference in rate of decline between those women who worked outside the home and those who did not (for that generation, at least.) So I would conclude that paid work is not the main factor.

I've seen other studies showing links between outcomes for elderly people (in terms of health, longevity, cognitive function etc.) with physical activity, wealth/status and social connections. It seems to me that the traditional retirement model for men potentially involved the loss of any or all of these and so perhaps it's not surprising that at the whole population level, this correlation is observed.

Completely agree on only studying men, which frankly is a larger problem for the study than looking at the "wrong age" of early retirees, in my opinion.

I like the your idea that it's not paid work, per se, that might be staving off the observed cognitive decline. Would be interested in reading more about that in particular, as volunteering is a pretty common replacement for paid work with a lot of early retirees, it seems.

It's certainly possible that it's not the work itself, necessarily, that lead to the cognitive decline. But what's tricky to understand is why the early retirees did not successfully emulate whatever it was about work (perhaps relationships, perhaps status, meaning, motivation, etc. etc.) in their early retirements. That's the rub, at least for me.

Done by Forty

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #35 on: June 06, 2017, 10:06:33 AM »
Since when is 'cognitive ability' the goal in life...I thought happiness was.

Maybe if you are not working 50 hours a week you don't need as good of a memory.

I'm gonna retire early and take my chances ;)

Me, too! I'm also aiming for happiness. Though I suppose I'd like to be both happy and have my full mental faculties, and I think I'd be far happier late in life if I did manage to have both. So that's one of my goals now.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #36 on: June 06, 2017, 10:08:12 AM »
Donebyforty, thanks for bringing this study to wider attention and also your informed commentary on it. It's difficult to do this kind of population based study and disentangle the various factors (e.g. the fact that average IQ scores have been rising throughout the 20th century) and I think the authors have produced something interesting.

The fact that the study (of necessity) excludes the majority of the population (women) has some significance, I think. There is a large proportion of women aged 70+ here in the UK (and I would assume elsewhere in Europe) who have either never had full-time paid work, or who left the labour force when they married or became mothers. Clearly, those women were working - they did the physical & mental work of running a household and in most cases the emotional work of raising children. I don't believe there's any evidence that women's cognitive functions decline more rapidly than men, or that there is an observable difference in rate of decline between those women who worked outside the home and those who did not (for that generation, at least.) So I would conclude that paid work is not the main factor.

I've seen other studies showing links between outcomes for elderly people (in terms of health, longevity, cognitive function etc.) with physical activity, wealth/status and social connections. It seems to me that the traditional retirement model for men potentially involved the loss of any or all of these and so perhaps it's not surprising that at the whole population level, this correlation is observed.

I think you may be on to something with the gender thing... Studies have shown that men often get depressed in retirement because retiring from work is such a loss of identity for them. The whole breadwinner, climb the corporate ladder thing has been ingrained in men for so long that many don't know what to do when they leave the job that gives them that identity. And since depression is a known cause of cognitive decline, there's a relationship there. Even doing "mentally active" things in retirement may not be enough to totally offset that depression and the feelings of being put out to pasture.

Whereas women, esp. in prior generations, didn't have an identity tied up in a job or even something to retire "from" as they stayed home with kids and managed the house. So it's possible that their cognitive function stayed more level than men's, unless the empty nest thing really threw them into a depression similar to a man losing his job. I don't know, I'm just spitballing, but if researchers don't account for the experiences of both men and women, I can't really take the study too seriously.

It would be interesting to see what if any changes come over the next few decades in the research. More women have gone into the workforce. Do they feel that same emotional tie to their jobs as has been documented with men? Do they experience depression upon retirement that leads to decreased cognitive function? (I know I didn't. I was out the door the minute I was able and never looked back. Didn't depress me one bit not to have a "real job.") Now that (in some enlightened households) gender roles are more equitable, do men feel less attachment to the job as their sole locus of identity, thus avoiding depression when they quit? Now that ER is a thing, does wanting retirement and actively planning for decades of not working cause less cognitive function loss than just retiring because it's time, or because you were forced out of work?

Who knows. Time will tell, but I don't think this study even scratched the surface.


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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #37 on: June 06, 2017, 10:59:02 AM »
 
...
Its just that this study (as do so many others about retirement and ER) left out so many important questions and criteria to make any kind of rational conclusion. ...

I think you misunderstand how scientific research works (not trying to be snarky; most people don't). When conducting studies, especially those in new areas, researchers will simplify their studies to show an initial correlation. The study is not leaving out variables, not because it was structured poorly, but to initially see if there is a correlation worth studying. And in this case, there in fact is one. Further studies will analyze each of the variables that many posters have mentioned, but initial studies rarely, if ever, account for all variables. It's not a bad study; it's just an early one.

...
Its just that this study (as do so many others about retirement and ER) left out so many important questions and criteria to make any kind of rational conclusion. Then to make the leap that younger ERees ... will suffer even greater cognitive decline as he ages compared to a worker bee ... without data to support that or proper comparison across many who haven't worked ... was too inconclusive. ...

Where did it make that conclusion? I think LH article did but I didn't see it in the study. They do throw out a couple theories but only as possible explanations, not conclusions. Also, the authors only point to a "qualitatively important and casual relationship." And the most important part of the conclusion was the idea that adjusting the retirement age through factors such as pensions, social security benefits, etc. could allow for deeper and better research. This isn't the end all be all of early retirement studies.

cerat0n1a

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #38 on: June 06, 2017, 11:18:42 AM »
When conducting studies, especially those in new areas, researchers will simplify their studies to show an initial correlation. The study is not leaving out variables, not because it was structured poorly, but to initially see if there is a correlation worth studying. And in this case, there in fact is one. Further studies will analyze each of the variables that many posters have mentioned, but initial studies rarely, if ever, account for all variables. It's not a bad study; it's just an early one.

Also, in this particular area, it takes a l-o-n-g time to do interesting studies, whereas this kind of broad brush correlation activity can be done quite quickly and the authors have done a good job in teasing something out from their data.

My father-in-law (in his early eighties) retired from academia in his fifties and since then has done a number of activities which may or may not turn out to be relevant to this thread (he has started businesses, run marathons, lectured onboard cruise ships, walked the length of Britain, won crossword competitions, had books published, does huge amounts of charity work, including fundraising.) He is taking part in a longitudinal study which examines cognitive function over the decades, which started in the mid 1990s. It involves him reporting to the university lab every year or so and completing a number of mental tasks (and I think also possibly some blood tests and various scans on his brain) and this study is following hundreds of other people of a similar age.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #39 on: June 06, 2017, 12:49:32 PM »
But what's the point of spending time and money to theorize why there is a decline in ER when you don't have enough info from your initial study to draw that conclusion.

There is enough evidence from the initial study to draw that conclusion. I believe it is their conclusion. Additional research could point as to the reasons why (testing one of the two hypotheses they proposed), looking at people who retired at 42 instead of 50, etc. etc.

"We investigate the effect of retirement on cognition empirically using cross-nationally comparable surveys of older persons in the United States, England, and 11 European countries in 2004. We find that early retirement has a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s that is both quantitatively important and causal."

From the Conclusions section:

"Conclusions
Early retirement has a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s that is both quantitatively important and causal. We obtain this finding using cross-nationally comparable survey data from the United States, England, and Europe that allow us to relate cognition and labor force status. We argue that the effect is causal by making use of a substantial body of research showing that variation in pension, tax, and disability policies explain most variation across countries in average retirement rates.

Further exploration of existing data and new data being collected would allow a considerably deeper exploration of the roles of work and leisure in determining the pace of cognitive aging. For example, the HRS contains considerable information on how respondents use their leisure time that would allow both cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of changes in cognitive exercise that are associated with retirement. In addition, detailed occupation and industry data could be used to understand differences in the pace of technical change to which workers must adjust during the latter part of their careers. Also, in the 2010 wave the HRS will be adding measures of other components of fluid intelligence. Future work in this area should be able to separate the effects of the “unengaged lifestyle hypothesis” that early retirees suffer cognitive declines because the work environment they have left is more cognitively stimulating than the full-time leisure environment they have entered from the “on-the-job retirement hypothesis” which holds that incentives to invest among older workers are significantly reduced when they expect to retire at an early age.

There is evidence that older Americans have reversed a century-long trend toward early retirement and, during the past decade, have been increasing their labor force participation rates, especially beyond age 65. This is good news for the standard of living of elderly Americans, as well as for the fiscal balance of the Social Security and Medicare systems. Our paper suggests that it may also be good news for the cognitive capacities of our aging nation."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958696/
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 01:24:27 PM by Done by Forty »

stackorstarve

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #40 on: June 06, 2017, 01:06:04 PM »
I meant the LH article made that conclusion. Sorry that wasn't clear. ...

...
Oh ok. Yeah that was not an accurate reading of the research. (A lot of commercial news networks often construe data. See also: the "Today" show).

...

... But what's the point of spending time and money to theorize why there is a decline in ER when you don't have enough info from your initial study to draw that conclusion. ...

This study probably took relatively little time and money. All they did was aggregate survey data. Essentially just turning numbers into graphs.

Use that time and money to do further testing to support or not your conclusion then theorize why.

To do a widespread analysis like what many in this thread have suggested does take relatively large amounts of time and money. A lot of the data that would be used to find these relationships simply don't exist.

arebelspy

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #41 on: June 07, 2017, 07:55:21 PM »
Since when is 'cognitive ability' the goal in life...I thought happiness was.

Maybe if you are not working 50 hours a week you don't need as good of a memory.

I'm gonna retire early and take my chances ;)

Well said.

I don't think I agree that happiness is the goal (I mean, who wants a goal that's so easy to obtain all you have to do is choose it? ;) ), but I do agree that I don't put "peak cognitive abilities" as the goal in life, and I doubt many others do as well.

I think the things most people do think are the goal in life (happiness, relationships, helping other people all being common ones) are all enhanced by ER.

If cognitive decline comes with it (and I'm not convinced it does, but even if I granted it did)... okay.

I'll take that trade off.  :)
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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #42 on: June 08, 2017, 12:23:51 AM »
That's a reasonable approach. It's at least addressing the possible risks with eyes wide open.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #43 on: June 08, 2017, 07:12:28 AM »
The more I think on this, the more I think it is possible there is some cognitive decline. You are no longer forced to deal with office politics, aren't forced to spend time with people you despise or who are completely incompatible personality wise, no longer have to solve problems not of your own making, etc. That involves a lot of problem solving that just doesn't take place when retired. What I would need to to see, is how much cognitive decline. I admit I haven't read anything that quantifies the amount of cognitive decline (maybe the posted articles do, but I haven't read them yet and the other studies like them have measured some decline but haven't really put that decline into perspective) to decide if its even really significant. Most people experience cognitive decline as they age, but most of the older people I have known are still clever enough for my company (I am comparing the person to a younger version of themselves, not to nameless masses) so while it occurs and you clearly need to plan for it, it doesn't seem to be the end of the world.

My time is limited. If I have to choose to spend time now doing what I enjoy or spending a lot of time now doing what I don't enjoy in the hopes that I can do what I want later, I vote for spending my time now on what I enjoy. No one has promised me tomorrow.

SteveR

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #44 on: June 10, 2017, 06:13:11 PM »
Isn't this an area where the Internet Retirement Police are actually our friends? If your retirement is such that the IRP are going to say "you're not really retired!", presumably you don't count as an early retiree for the purposes of this study either and therefore the conclusions don't apply to you. You're someone who changed careers for one that pays less and perhaps are working fewer hours, but you're not "retired" (early or otherwise). Now if there's a study showing "part time workers/workers with low-stress jobs suffer earlier cognitive decline", we can start worrying (maybe).

But personally I don't care, I'll take the risk anyway. I expect to get more total "mind sharpness hours" for stuff I care about over my life if I retire early, even if my sharpness does decay faster than it otherwise would have done. :-)

ETA: I'm reminded of this quote from Catch-22:

Quote
“Well, maybe it is true,” Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”

“I do,” Dunbar told him.

I don't. :-)

(Fuller quote is here: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/496826-dunbar-loved-shooting-skeet-because-he-hated-every-minute-of)
« Last Edit: June 10, 2017, 06:21:44 PM by SteveR »

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2017, 02:11:06 AM »
Cognitive decline happens when people are bored and cease learning or doing things they're interested in. It can happen in retirement. It can happen working in a boring job.

The Happy Philosopher

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #46 on: June 11, 2017, 08:44:22 AM »
Actually there is a more interesting question here. Lets assume in populations there is a causal relationship between retirement and cognitive decline (and not just correlation). We should be looking for the outliers (people that had cognitive improvement with retirement) and find out how they are different. Perhaps we could find risk factors for decline or protective measures. Maybe it is related to some other factor that tends to be correlated with retirement rather than the retirement itself.

stackorstarve

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #47 on: June 11, 2017, 08:59:38 AM »
Cognitive decline happens when people are bored and cease learning or doing things they're interested in. It can happen in retirement. It can happen working in a boring job.
Do you have any evidence to support that? I'm curious if you've found any studies on how people view their job vs cognitive decline.

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stackorstarve

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #48 on: June 11, 2017, 09:01:29 AM »
Actually there is a more interesting question here. Lets assume in populations there is a causal relationship between retirement and cognitive decline (and not just correlation). We should be looking for the outliers (people that had cognitive improvement with retirement) and find out how they are different. Perhaps we could find risk factors for decline or protective measures. Maybe it is related to some other factor that tends to be correlated with retirement rather than the retirement itself.
Definitely. Finding risk factors and causes of cognitive decline in future studies would be very helpful in actually factoring it into life decisions.

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Re: Is cognitive decline really worth working longer?
« Reply #49 on: June 15, 2017, 04:35:37 PM »
Actually there is a more interesting question here. Lets assume in populations there is a causal relationship between retirement and cognitive decline (and not just correlation). We should be looking for the outliers (people that had cognitive improvement with retirement) and find out how they are different. Perhaps we could find risk factors for decline or protective measures. Maybe it is related to some other factor that tends to be correlated with retirement rather than the retirement itself.
Definitely. Finding risk factors and causes of cognitive decline in future studies would be very helpful in actually factoring it into life decisions.

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I would also like to see a study that compared cognitive decline in the retired population with cognitive decline in people who have never had a job (independently wealthy and/or supported by others). Not homemakers per se, who frequently also go through a partial retirement of sorts when the kids leave the nest, but people who have never experienced the ongoing stress of "having" to work. I'd also like to see whether the kind of work done (repetitive drudgery versus something more creative) had any effect.