Skip to main content Accessibility help

Occupation, retirement and cognitive functioning


The purpose of this paper is to examine the causal impact of the duration of retirement on the cognitive functioning of male elderly workers in Japan using data from the National Survey of Japanese Elderly. We explore how the complexity of a worker's longest served job affects cognitive functioning after retirement. In particular, we investigate eight dimensions of the longest served job using information listed in the United States Dictionary of Occupational Titles, namely physical demands, mathematical development, reasoning development, language development, the job's relationship to data, the job's relationship to people, the job's relationship to things and the specific vocational preparation required. Our estimator takes account of the potential endogeneity of the duration of retirement and the left-censoring of the duration of retirement. Our empirical evidence suggests that the duration of retirement has a negative and significant impact on cognitive functioning. Moreover, among the eight dimensions of job characteristics, high complexity in the job's relation to data is found to be an important job characteristic in delaying the deterioration of cognitive functioning after retirement.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Occupation, retirement and cognitive functioning
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Occupation, retirement and cognitive functioning
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Occupation, retirement and cognitive functioning
      Available formats
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Colin McKenzie, Faculty of Economics, Keio University, 2-15-45 Mita, Tokyo 108-8345, Japan E-mail:
Hide All
Adam, S., Bay, C., Bonsang, E., Germain, S. and Perelman, S. 2006. Occupational activities and cognitive reserve: a frontier approach applied to the Survey on Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). CREPP Working Paper 2006/05, Centre de Recherche en Economie Publique et de la Population, Liege, Belgium.
Andel, R., Crowe, M., Pedersen, N. L., Mortimer, J., Crimmins, E., Johansson, B. and Gatz, M. 2005. Complexity of work and risk of Alzheimer's Disease: a population-based study of Swedish twins. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60B, 5, 251–8.
Andel, R., Kåreholt, I., Parker, M. G., Thorslund, M. and Gatz, M. 2007. Complexity of primary lifetime occupation and cognition in advanced old age. Journal of Aging and Health, 19, 3, 397415.
Bonsang, E., Adam, S. and Perelman, S. 2012. Does retirement affect cognitive functioning? Journal of Health Economics, 31, 3, 490501.
Bosma, H., Van Boxtel, M. P. J., Ponds, R. W. H., Houx, P. J., Burdorf, A. and Jolles, J. 2003. Mental work demands protect against cognitive impairment: MAAS Prospective Cohort Study. Experimental Aging Research, 29, 1, 3345.
Coe, N. B., von Gaudecker, H. M., Lindeboom, M. and Maurer, J. 2012. The effect of retirement on cognitive functioning. Health Economics, 21, 8, 913–27.
Coe, N. B. and Zamarro, G. 2011. Retirement effects on health in Europe. Journal of Health Economics, 30, 1, 7786.
Evans, D. A., Beckett, L. A., Albert, M. S., Hebert, L. E., Scherr, P. A., Funkenstein, H. H. and Taylor, J. O. 1993. Level of education and change in cognitive function in a community population of older persons. Annals of Epidemiology, 3, 1, 71–7.
Finkel, D., Adel, R., Gatz, M. and Pedersen, N. L. 2009. The role of occupational complexity in trajectories of cognitive aging before and after retirement. Psychology and Aging, 24, 3, 563–73.
Fisher, G. G., Stachowski, A., Infurna, F. J., Faul, J. D., Grosch, J. and Tetrick, L. E. 2014. Mental work demands, retirement, and longitudinal trajectories of cognitive functioning. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19, 2, 231–42.
Fletcher, J. M., Sindelar, J. L. and Yamaguchi, S. 2011. Cumulative effects of job characteristics on health. Health Economics, 20, 5, 553–70.
Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E. and McHugh, P. R. 1975. ‘Mini-mental State’: a practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 12, 3, 189–98.
Gow, A. J., Avlund, K. and Mortensen, E. L. 2014. Occupational characteristics and cognitive aging in the Glostrup 1914 Cohort. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69B, 2, 228–36.
Greene, W. H. 2008. Econometric Analysis. Sixth edition, , Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Grossman, M. 1972. On the concept of health capital and the demand for health. Journal of Political Economy, 80, 2, 223–55.
Hashimoto, H. 2013. Health consequences of transitioning to retirement and social participation: results based on JSTAR panel data. RIETI Discussion Paper Series 13-E-078, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry, Tokyo.
Japan Institute for Labour 1997. Shokugyo Hando Bukku [Occupation Handbook for Youth]. Japan Institute for Labour, Tokyo.
Kajitani, S. 2011. Working in old age and health outcomes in Japan. Japan and the World Economy, 23, 3, 153–62.
Kan, M. 2009. Economic analysis of disparities in health among Japanese elderly. Japanese Journal of Health Economics and Policy, 20, 2, 85108. (in Japanese)
Le Carret, N., Lafont, S., Mayo, W. and Fabrigoule, C. 2003. The effect of education on cognitive performances and its implication for the constitution of the cognitive reserve. Developmental Neuropsychology, 23, 3, 317–37.
Marquie, J. C., Duarte, L. R., Bessieres, P., Dalm, C., Gentil, C. and Ruidavets, J. B. 2010. Higher mental stimulation at work is associated with improved cognitive functioning in both young and older workers. Ergonomics, 53, 11, 1287–301.
Mazzonna, F. and Peracchi, F. 2012. Ageing, cognitive abilities and retirement. European Economic Review, 56, 4, 691710.
Oshio, T., Oishi, A. S. and Shimizutani, S. 2011. Social security reforms and labor force participation of the elderly in Japan. Japanese Economic Review, 62, 2, 248–71.
Potter, G. G., Plassman, B. L., Helms, M. J., Foster, S. M. and Edwards, N. W. 2006. Occupational characteristics and cognitive performance among elderly male twins. Neurology, 67, 8, 1377–82.
Potter, G. G., Helms, M. J. and Plassman, B. L. 2008. Association of job demands and intelligence with cognitive functioning measures among men in late life. Neurology, 70, 19, part 2, 1803–8.
Roberts, G. and Binder, D. 2009. Analyses based on combining similar information from multiple surveys. Paper presented at the Survey Research Methods, Section of the Joint Statistical Meetings, Washington DC. Available online at [Accessed 27 January 2013].
Rohwedder, S. and Willis, R. J. 2010. Mental retirement. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24, 1, 119–38.
Schooler, C., Mulatu, M. S. and Oates, G. 1999. The continuing effects of substantively complex work on the intellectual functioning of older workers. Psychology and Aging, 14, 3, 483506.
Smart, E. L., Gow, A. L. and Dreary, I. J. 2014. Occupational complexity and lifetime cognitive abilities. Neurology, 83, 24, 2285–91.
Stern, Y. 2002. What is cognitive reserve? Theory and research application of the reserve concept. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 3, 448–60.
Stern, Y., Gurland, B., Tatemichi, T. K., Tang, M. X., Wilder, D. and Mayeux, R. 1994. Influence of education and occupation on the incidence of Alzheimer's Disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 271, 13, 1004–10.
Teng, E. L., Hasegawa, K., Homma, A., Imai, Y., Larson, E., Graves, E., Sugimoto, K., Yamaguchi, T., Sasaki, T., Chiu, D. and White, L. R. 1994. The Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI): a practical test for cross-cultural epidemiological studies of dementia. International Psychogeriatrics, 6, 1, 4558.
US Employment Service, Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration 1991. Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Revised fourth edition, The Administration, Washington DC.
Van der Elst, W., Van Boxtel, M. P. J. and Jolles, J. 2012. Occupational activity and cognitive aging: a case-control study based on the Maastricht Aging Study. Experimental Aging Research, 38, 3, 315–29.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed