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Issue Brief: Occupation, Cognitive Decline and Retirement
Brooke Helppie McFall and Amanda Sonnega

Little is known about occupational differences in age-related cognitive decline. This information is an important starting point for understanding the potential role that cognitive decline may play in workforce departure and whether, as with physical health declines, cognitive decline influences rates of Social Security disability insurance claims or claims before the full retirement age. This issue brief uses longitudinal data on cognitive functioning in the Health and Retirement Study to describe differences in rates of age-related cognitive decline across broad occupational categories and to relate these to different work transitions at common retirement ages. Findings support prior research showing that cognitive decline may lead to earlier than planned retirement, and appear to be consistent with research showing that workers may shift to less cognitively demanding jobs as a result of cognitive decline.

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