Marriage can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 42%, new research finds.
The conclusions come from 15 studies published over many years involving over 800,000 people in three continents.
The results showed that compared with married people, lifelong singletons were 42% more likely to develop dementia.
People who were widowed had a 20% increased chance of developing dementia.
Divorce, though, was not linked to an increased risk of dementia.
More recent studies included in the review suggest the benefit from being married is reducing, although it is not clear why.
The protective effect of marriage could be down to couples helping each other live healthier lives.
They may exercise more, eat a healthier diet and get more social stimulation.
The study’s authors conclude:
“Being married is associated with reduced risk of dementia than widowed and lifelong single people, who are also underdiagnosed in routine clinical practice.
Dementia prevention in unmarried people should focus on education and physical health and should consider the possible effect of social engagement as a modifiable risk factor.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (Sommerlad et al., 2018).