White Men Experience the Most Post-Retirement Cognitive Loss

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July 20, 2023 -- White Americans experience three times the cognitive decline as Blacks after retirement, a new study says. And the declines are twice as large for men as women, says research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Cognitive decline refers to mental skills like thinking, remembering, and learning.

Researchers followed 2,226 people over a decade.

The biggest drops were seen with white men and the least by Black women.

“Exposure to lifelong structural inequalities may actually ease transition to retirement with respect to cognitive aging,” said lead author Ross Andel of Arizona State University  to Bloomberg. “That’s because longstanding racial disparities in US education and hiring practices mean that Black workers have faced substantial barriers to entry into more engaging jobs.”

Black Americans also might experience less cognitive loss after retirement because they have access to “better established social support networks and cultural practices that favor community cohesiveness to a greater extent than is typical for White adults,” according to the study.

“Surprisingly, individuals who attended college showed a greater decline than those who didn’t,” Neuroscience News reported.

The research suggests that some people have a “mental retirement,” or a period of disengaging from work before they actually retire. Men earning more money, particularly white men, also suffer cognition loss as they approach retirement, researchers found.

"White workers, and particularly White men, may be more likely to experience a greater loss of identity, engagement, and life direction as they enter retirement,” the study says.