Let’s begin at the end: you are screwed, regardless. That is the rational conclusion you can draw from a recent and huge (half a million participants) study in France.


What the researchers found was that you have two life choices, neither of which is good for you. You can keep working. (This wasn’t addressed specifically in the study but we all know work is bad for your health because of all the sitting, and the stress of commuting, and the overall stress, which comes from all the sitting behind a desk or a forklift as your remaining days dribble through your fingers, days you can number with some certitude.)


Or you can retire and get dementia.


To be clear: dementia is not a foregone conclusion. Most people do not get dementia. But researchers at INSERM, the French government’s health research agency found that retirement increases your risk of getting it. In fact, for “each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent.”


You may scoff at 3.2 percent, but imagine the panic if someone told us that drinking soda could cause a devastating loss of mental function (instead of obesity). There would be bans. Billion-dollar class action lawsuits. Executives would be pilloried.


And note that it’s 3.2 percent each year. This means that “Someone who retired at 65 had about a 15 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared with someone retiring at 60.”


We would like to discount this study, but it sounds reasonably well thought-out: “To rule out the possibility that mental decline may have led people to retire earlier, researchers did analyses that eliminated people who developed dementia within five years of retirement, and within 10 years of it.” And the trend was the same in all cases.


So two takeaways:


  • You really do need to use it or lose it, even if you have to use it in a soul-crushing cubicle.
  • And in the future, when someone says, “I’m just working because I need the health benefits,” it might not mean what it used to mean.


Photo by Larsinio, via Wikimedia Commons.