Mar­riage could help re­duce risk of de­men­tia, study sug­gests

The Guardian Australia - - Environment/Science -

Be­ing mar­ried could help stave off de­men­tia, a new study has sug­gested.

Lev­els of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion could ex­plain the find­ing, ex­perts have said, af­ter the re­search showed that peo­ple who are sin­gle or wid­owed are more likely to de­velop the dis­ease.

Ex­perts con­ducted an anal­y­sis of 15 stud­ies which held data on de­men­tia and mar­i­tal sta­tus in­volv­ing more than 800,000 peo­ple from Europe, North and South Amer­ica, and Asia.

Their study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Neu­rol­ogy, Neu­ro­surgery, and Psy­chi­a­try, con­cluded that life­long sin­gle­tons have a 42% el­e­vated risk of de­men­tia com­pared with mar­ried cou­ples.

Those who have been wid­owed had a 20% in­creased risk com­pared with mar­ried peo­ple, they found, but no el­e­vated risk was found among di­vorcees com­pared with those who were still mar­ried.

The re­searchers, led by ex­perts from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, said pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that mar­ried peo­ple may adopt health­ier life­styles. They may also be more likely to be so­cially en­gaged than sin­gle­tons.

Mean­while, the ef­fect ob­served in peo­ple who have been wid­owed could be due to stress that comes with be­reave­ment, they added. An­other ex­pla­na­tion could be that de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia could be re­lated to other un­der­ly­ing cog­ni­tive or per­son­al­ity traits.

Com­ment­ing on the study, Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Re­search UK, said: “There is com­pelling re­search show­ing mar­ried peo­ple gen­er­ally live longer and en­joy bet­ter health, with many dif­fer­ent fac­tors likely to be con­tribut­ing to that link. Peo­ple who are mar­ried tend to be fi­nan­cially bet­ter off, a fac­tor that is closely in­ter­wo­ven with many as­pects of our health.

“Spouses may help to en­cour­age healthy habits, look out for their part­ner’s health and pro­vide im­por­tant so­cial sup­port. Re­search sug­gests that so­cial in­ter­ac­tion can help to build cog­ni­tive re­serve – a men­tal re­silience that al­lows peo­ple to func­tion for longer with a dis­ease like Alzheimer’s be­fore show­ing symp­toms.

“Stay­ing phys­i­cally, men­tally, and so­cially ac­tive are all im­por­tant as­pects of a healthy life­style and th­ese are things ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of their mar­i­tal sta­tus, can work to­wards.”

Spouses may help to en­cour­age healthy habits, look out for their part­ner’s health and pro­vide im­por­tant so­cial sup­port, the re­searchers sug­gest. Pho­to­graph: An­thony Devlin/PA

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