Marriage Has An Amazing Effect On Dementia Risk

Almost 6 million people in the US live with dementia.

Almost 6 million people in the US live with dementia.

Marriage can help stave off dementia, research suggests.

Married people are less likely to develop dementia as they age, multiple studies have found.

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.

Divorcees, though, are twice as likely to get dementia, with men particularly strongly affected.

People who are divorced have a higher risk of dementia than those who never married, the study found.

Professor Hui Liu, the study’s first author, said:

“This research is important because the number of unmarried older adults in the United States continues to grow, as people live longer and their marital histories become more complex.

Marital status is an important but overlooked social risk/protective factor for dementia.”

The study included 15,379 people over the age of 52.

All were part of a survey carried out over 14 years that asked people about many aspects of their life, including their relationships and health.

Every two years they were given a test of cognitive health.

Divorced people emerged as being at the highest risk of dementia.

This was only partly accounted for by differences in economic status.

Previous studies have shown that marriage can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 42%.

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.

Professor Liu said:

“These findings will be helpful for health policy makers and practitioners who seek to better identify vulnerable populations and to design effective intervention strategies to reduce dementia risk.”

The study was published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B (Liu et al., 2019).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

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.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.