Japan and Korea have begun conducting a survey on memory. China, India and several countries in Latin America are also planning their own respective surveys.
While not everyone is convinced, a number of leading researchers say the “Mental Retirement” study is at least, a tantalizing bit of evidence for a hypothesis that is widely believed but surprisingly difficult to demonstrate.
Researchers repeatedly find that people tend to do less well on cognitive tests than people who are still working. But, they note, that could be because people whose memories and thinking skills are declining may be more likely to retire than people whose cognitive skills remain sharp.
And research has failed to support the premise that mastering activities like memory exercises , crossword puzzles and Sudoko improve overall functioning.
“If you do crossword puzzles, you get better at crossword puzzles,” said Lisa Berkman, director of the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard University. “But you don’t get better at cognitive behavior in life.
The “Mental Retirement” paper is a study about their findings from the United States and 12 other European countries that have suggested that people tend for an early work retirement, may enhances signs of memory decline.
The National Institute on Aging began a large study in the United States nearly 20 years ago. European countries have to start their own surveys, using similar questions so the data would be comparable.
The test looks how well people can recall a list of ten nouns immediately and ten minutes after they heard them. People in the United States fared best scoring 11 out of 20. Second was England and Denmark with scores just above 10, followed by France (8), Italy (7) and Spain (6).
The United States, England and Denmark, people retire later, 65 to 70 percent of men are still working when they were in their early 60s while in France and Italy, the figure is 10 to 20 percent and Spain, at 38 percent.
Economic incentives produce the large differences in retirement age. Countries with earlier retirement ages have tax policies, pension, disability and other measures that encourage people to leave the work force at younger ages.
The researchers found that the longer keep people working, the better they do on the tests when they are in their early 60s.