Having a spouse reduces the risk of dementia – Innovita Research

Dementia is one of the leading causes of death. Not only that, but it is one of the main causes of the reduced quality of life at the later stages of life. People would do anything to push dementia away, but what can we do? Scientists from UCL say that one way to deter dementia is to get married.

Having a spouse may encourage having a better social life and a more active lifestyle. Image credit: Ntshzh via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientists looked in to 15 studies, involving 800,000 participants from Europe, North and South America, and Asia. These studies had 28-80 % of married people. Scientists found that widowers and singletons were more likely to get dementia. It is probably because of the health effects of social interaction, taking care of other people and all activities married people get into. In fact, even taking into account other factors, such as age and sex, showed that single people were 42 % more likely to develop dementia.  This is rather interesting, because the most recent studies are showing different numbers.

Later studies, which involved people born after 1927, showed only 24 % difference between singles and married people in terms of dementia. While it is possible to see why married people fight off dementia more effectively, scientists don’t really know why this effect is shrinking. Also, widowed people are only 20 % more likely to develop dementia – again, scientists don’t know exactly why there is a difference between widowed and singletons. Divorced people were pretty much at the same level as singletons in this regard, but it also depends heavily on how long people have been divorced.

Scientists believe in the robustness of their findings, because a certain advantage was evident even after further analysis. There are some limitations. For example, time spent divorced or widowed is not taken into account in this study. Also, results are based on observational studies only, which do not explain the causes of this phenomenon. However, scientists think that the real advantage is in social interactions and more active lifestyle. Dr Andrew Sommerlad, lead author of the study, said: “We hope that our findings could be applied to support dementia prevention among unmarried people, as maintaining physical health and ensuring mental stimulation through social engagement among unmarried older people may be beneficial.”

This is very important, because marriage is sort of going out of fashion. People are living more liberal lives now, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But scientists have to look into the ways of reducing the chances of developing dementia in those, who do not have a spouse and live alone.


Source: UCL