Can working longer actually help maintain Baby Boomers mental health?

The first Baby Boomers will begin to turn 65 next year and over the next 20 years will be filling the ranks of the retired and unemployed in record numbers.We’ve all heard it before. “He/she was doing fine until they stopped working. Then it seemed like overnight they kind of started going downhill fast”. As common as this belief is there has been no real evidence that there is any truth to it. Until now.

Two economist have published a paper that they call “Mental Retirement” that analyzed data from a study done over a 20 year period by the National Institute on Aging. The survey,The Health and Retirement Study, involved over 22 thousand Americans 50 years old or older. It conducted memory test on these individuals every 2 years. Memory testing is one of the best ways to measure cognitive capacity or a persons ability to process information. Other measures are problem solving processes, language, attention and concept formation.

Gina Kolota a science journalist reported on the findings of economist Susann Rohwedder and Robert Willis in an article published in the New York Times.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science

Because of the large differences in the retirement age in the U.S. and other European countries they were able to compare the difference in memory test scores for people that retired before 60 and those that didn’t. Almost 70% of Americans are still working in their early 60′s compared to 10% to 20% in France and Italy and 38 percent in Spain.

The U.S. averaged an 11 on a scale of 0 to 20 on the test while Italy averaged 7, Spain 6 and France 8.

It’s not clear whether it’s because of the aerobic activity that work involves or it’s because of the social interaction or maybe simply less time watching T.V.

Whatever the reason Baby Boomers may benefit from staying physically healthy and in the workforce into their 60′s.

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