Can your marriage save you from dementia?

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According to the latest review of the evidence, married folk have a much lower risk of developing dementia than lifelong singles.

Lifelong singles and widowers are at heightened risk of developing the disease, the findings indicate, although single status may no longer be quite the health hazard it once seemed to be, the researchers acknowledge.

The researchers revisited 15 studies investigating dementia and marital status. The investigation included more than 800,000 participants from Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

Married people accounted for between 28 and 80 per cent of people in the included studies; the widowed made up between around 8 and 48 per cent; the divorced between 0 and 16 per cent; and lifelong singletons between 0 and 32.5 per cent.

The researchers found that people who remained single throughout their life were 42 per cent more likely to develop dementia, after taking account of age and sex.

Part of this risk might be explained by poorer physical health among lifelong single people, the researchers suggest.

However, the most recent studies, which included people born after 1927, indicated a risk of 24 per cent, which suggests that this may have lessened over time, although it is not clear why, say the researchers.

The widowed were 20 per cent more likely to develop dementia than married people, although the strength of this association was somewhat weakened when educational attainment was factored in. Bereavement is likely to boost stress levels, which have been associated with impaired nerve signalling and cognitive abilities, the researchers note.

No such associations were found for those who had divorced their partners, although this may partly be down to the smaller numbers of people of this status included in the studies, the researchers point out.

The lower risk of dementia among married people persisted even after more detailed analysis, which, the researchers suggest, reflects “the robustness of the findings”.

“Marriage may help both partners to have healthier lifestyles, including exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and smoking and drinking less, all of which have been associated with lower risk of dementia,” the researchers explain.

“Couples may also have more opportunities for social engagement than single people – a factor that has been linked to better health and lower dementia risk,” they suggest.

Read the full study.

Why do you think married people seem to have a lower risk of dementia?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 22
  1. 0

    So, it’s not marriage per se that is the panacea but having a partner and being a couple that reduces the risks. Big, big difference.

  2. 0

    I would have thought that the stresses of marriage were more likely to bring on dementia – particularly since over 60% of them are bad and end in divorce.

    Also, as I single, I have to do everything for myself, which perforce keeps my brain active.

  3. 0

    Maybe – but Demetria is preferable to a lifetime of misery

  4. 0

    No dementia for me as we enjoy life to it’s fullest.

  5. 0

    As usual we are getting half the story! Of course marriage doesn’t prevent dementia. What does slow its onset is active social life, communication and brain use – learning new skills that make the brain forge new pathways. Depression, inactivity, poor health, poor nutrition, and loneliness exacerbate the rapidity of dementia’s progress. Single, heterosexual men find ageing more difficult because they often haven’t forged strong community links. A couple of studies are looking at the benefit of Men’s sheds, volunteering, Uni 3rd Age etc on positive ageing and health. So far the findings are really positive. The social interaction found in men’s groups and making new friends is as important as learning skills. Women are more likely to have strong communication links but if for some reason they are stuck at home with nothing to do but watch TV their risk of rapid onset dementia is the same as the blokes. The research is clear – we need to keep active, exercise, use our brains and most importantly chat to people we like (which may or may not be a spouse)!

  6. 0

    Could be that the married women do not get old enough to get dementia before dying as a result of domestic violence. I’ve also read somewhere that married men live longer than single men, single women live longer than married women. What is the point? Mum outlasted Dad by 4 years after 60 years of married bliss.

  7. 0

    For men marriage may reduce the likelihood of dementia ( unlikely). But it does increase your chance of dying of alcohol poisoning or suicide. Dementia’s looking pretty good isn’t it.

    • 0

      Tib – really. You have wasted your life. You did choose your wife you know.

    • 0

      Rosret yes me and the 50% who get financially and emotionally destroyed by women in divorce and out of the 50% that are left 30% live in their sheds that leaves 20% that may be a little happier than the rest , those are probably the heavy drinkers.
      Still men are walking away ( some are running) from marriage so there’s some hope for the future.

  8. 0

    So where’s the piece of jewellery that can save us from dementia?

    • 0

      It’s the gold ring through a mans nose.

    • 0

      The wedding ring. – or ball and chain for the poor men on this site who have no idea why they married. So that sort of says they probably have may dementia already.

    • 0

      Rosret I was going to blame a limited amount blood for the brain. Like most men hormones are what got us into trouble and our fathers didn’t tell us the truth, but not to worry the next generation is being told the truth.

  9. 0

    Well all the people I know with dementia were happily married. Odd stats as one person will always be left at the end of their life span which makes them single and older than the person they have buried.

  10. 0

    LOL Tib!! (:

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