This Is the Adverse Effect Early Retirement Can Have on Your Brain, Study Reveals

The benefits might not always outweigh the costs.

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By Amanda Breen

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Many people wish they could retire early — but it might not always be in their best interest.

A new study out of Binghamton University published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization found that early retirement can cause "faster cognitive decline among the elderly," Business Insider reported.

Related: 17 Habits of Self-Made Millionaires Who Retired Early

The Binghamton researchers studied Chinese data on millions of older citizens who'd taken pension benefits to retire early and compared their outcomes with those who remained in the workforce.

The pandemic led to early retirement for millions of Americans (whether by choice or not), per The New York Times, but by April 2022, nearly 64% of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 were working — roughly the same rate as in February 2020.

Although those who didn't return to work might enjoy better physical health, including improved sleep and a reduction in alcohol consumption, they're also at risk for reduced social engagement, mental activity and, as a result, more rapid cognitive decline, the study revealed.

Related: 4 Things You Need to Think About Before You Retire Early

"The kinds of things that matter and determine better health might simply be very different from the kinds of things that matter for better cognition among the elderly," lead researcher Plamen Nikolov said in a statement. "Social engagement and connectedness may simply be the single most powerful factors for cognitive performance in old age."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and recently completed the MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

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