Your spouse may drive you crazy, but your mar­riage might keep you sane

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY KAREN KA­PLAN

Your spouse may drive you crazy at times, but new re­search sug­gests that your mar­riage may keep you from los­ing your mind.

The risk of de­men­tia was sig­nif­i­cantly lower for mar ried peo­ple than for adults who re­mained sin­gle their en­tire lives, ac­cord­ing to a re­port this week in the Jour­nal of Neu­rol­ogy, Neu­ro­surgery & Psy­chi­a­try. Hus­bands and wives also fared bet­ter than wid­ow­ers and wid­ows, re­searchers found.

The anal­y­sis in­cluded more than 800,000 peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in 15 pre­vi­ously pub­lished stud­ies. Most of the study vol­un­teers hailed from Swe­den, with the rest liv­ing else­where in Europe, the United States, Asia or Brazil. Nearly 30,000 of them had some form of de­men­tia.

The au­thors of the new re­port said they had sev­eral rea­sons to sus­pect that mar­riage might keep the brain in good work­ing or­der.

Peo­ple who are mar­ried spend more time in the com­pany of another per­son, and so­cial en­gage­ment is as­so­ci­ated with a re­duced risk of de­men­tia. Per­haps years of in­ter­act­ing with a hus­band or wife builds up a “cog­ni­tive re­serve” that makes the brain more re­silient to fu­ture dam­age, the re­searchers wrote.

Mar­ried peo­ple also tend to be health­ier, per­haps be­cause their spouses nag them to eat their veg­eta­bles, quit smok­ing and take their blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tions. Bet­ter

phys­i­cal health could trans­late into bet­ter brain health by re­duc­ing the risk of things like heart dis­ease or a stroke, the re­searchers sur­mised.

It seems that they were on to some­thing.

Nine of the stud­ies they ex­am­ined com­pared de­men­tia risk in mar­ried peo­ple and those whose spouses had died. In th­ese stud­ies, the risk of de­men­tia was 2 per­cent to 41 per­cent higher for wid­ows and wid­ow­ers than for peo­ple whose spouses were still alive. Over­all, the added risk as­so­ci­ated with be­ing wid­owed was 20 per­cent.

In ad­di­tion, six of the stud­ies com­pared the de­men­tia risk in peo­ple who were mar­ried and in peo­ple who were life­long sin­gles. The sin­gles con­sis­tently faced a higher risk, rang­ing from 7 per­cent to 90 per­cent. Over­all, the added risk for those who had never mar­ried was 42 per­cent.

To put those fig­ures into per­spec­tive, the re­searchers noted that peo­ple who are seden­tary are about 40 per­cent more likely to de­velop de­men­tia than peo­ple who are phys­i­cally ac­tive. Smok­ers and those with high blood pres­sure are about 60 per­cent more likely to de­velop de­men­tia than peo­ple who don’t have ei­ther of th­ese prob­lems.

Fi­nally, seven of the stud­ies com­pared de­men­tia risk in those who were mar­ried and those who were di­vorced. There was no dif­fer­ence be­tween the two groups.

The re­searchers sus­pect that widow hood is worse than di­vorce be­cause be­reave­ment causes stress that makes it eas­ier for de­men­tia to take hold. Stud­ies have found that be­ing wid­owed is more stress­ful than get­ting di­vorced, they noted.

None of this means that peo­ple should get mar­ried sim­ply to ward of f de­men­tia. But un­der­stand­ing why mar­riage is as­so­ci­ated with bet­ter cog­ni­tive health could lead to the de­vel­op­ment of“so­cial in­ter­ven­tions” that would be avail­able to ev­ery­one, the au­thors con­cluded.

That won’ t be easy, ac­cord­ing to an ed­i­to­rial that ac­com­pa­nied the study.

“The chal­lenge re­mains on how th­ese ob­ser­va­tions can be trans­lated into ef­fec­tive means of pre­vent­ing de­men­tia ,” the ed­i­to­rial warns .“Although po­ten­tially mod­i­fi­able risk f ac­tors for de­men­tia ex­ist, that does not mean that de­men­tia is eas­ily pre­ventable.”

DREAMSTIME / TNS

The risk of de­men­tia was sig­nif­i­cantly lower for mar­ried peo­ple than for adults who re­mained sin­gle their en­tire lives, ac­cord­ing to a re­port this week in the Jour­nal of Neu­rol­ogy, Neu­ro­surgery & Psy­chi­atr y.

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