November 28, 2017
Do the challenges and benefits that come with being married make your brain resilient against dementia? After looking at 15 studies with over 812,000 participants, researchers have concluded that being married is correlated with a lower risk of dementia compared to those who have never been married or those who are widowed.
An analysis showed that those who were single their whole lives were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia. Widowed people were 20 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who were married.
Staying married, though, doesn’t seem to have significant benefits, according to the study. Divorced people did not have a higher risk of dementia when compared to married people.
The new analysis supports earlier evidence that having close relationships with people staves off dementia later in life. Past studies have shown that not necessarily marriage, but meaningful close relationships, which often include marriage, are what prevents dementia.
Researchers say that this study suggests that marriage typically comes with a host of benefits that go hand in hand with dementia prevention: more social engagement outside the home, a swifter diagnosis of cognitive decline, and more active physical health behavior, which is poorer among those who are unmarried.
“Marital status has potential to affect dementia risk by increasing daily social interaction,” wrote the study authors. “This may improve cognitive reserve, meaning that an individual has a greater ability to cope with neuropathological damage by using compensatory cognitive approaches from a physically more resilient brain to maintain cognitive ability and daily function.” In other words, the challenges that come with being married and the daily interaction that comes with cohabitation bulk up your brain.
The analysis was conducted by researchers at University College London and Camden, Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London and the Center for Epidemiology of Ageing and Age-Related Diseases in Villejuif, France. It was published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.