Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Dementia is a loss of memory and intellectual capacity that generally occurs in older individuals. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, 47.5 million people suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s accounts for 70% of those cases and is the sixth leading cause of death in America. Symptoms and progression vary from person to person. However, your relationship status may be associated with your risk of developing dementia, according to a new study.
The study looked at 812,047 people in European countries, Asia, United States, and Brazil. After analyzing the studies, the researchers found that people who had been single all their lives and those who were widowed were more likely to develop dementia compared with those who were married at the time of the studies, despite their age and sex.
Results of the study suggest that people who have been single all their lives have a 42% higher risk of developing dementia later in life than those who are married. Those who are widowed could have a 20% higher risk. The researchers found no evidence that dementia risk in divorced people differed from those who were married, and they could not examine whether the duration of being widowed or divorced had any influence on the findings.
However, the relationship between marriage and dementia risk is not actually due to wearing a wedding ring or not. Rather, the research suggests that there are certain lifestyle factors associated with marriage that result in a lower risk of dementia. For example, married persons tend to live generally healthier lives and have more social stimulation due to living with a spouse or partner.
Interestingly, the study revealed that a single person born during the early 1900s had a 40% higher risk than a married person whereas a single person born late 1900s only had a 24% higher risk. This finding may suggest that as being unmarried becomes more and more common, the social and lifestyle differences between married and single persons lessens.
While the research reveals a link between marriage and dementia, it cannot definitively say that marriage reduces the risk of dementia. There are, however, certain lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk of dementia, such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, not smoking, and pursuing mentally stimulating activities. These habits can help to reduce a person’s risk of dementia, although dementia is not currently preventable.