Science has discovered yet another benefit of marriage….it is linked to a lower risk of dementia.
People who have never married or whose spouse has died are at increased risk of developing dementia compared to married people, according to a new review in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
The new paper looks at evidence from 15 previously published studies involving more than 800,000 people in Europe, North and South America and Asia. When the data was combined, and factors including age and gender were controlled for, researchers from University College London found that people who had never married were 42% more likely to develop dementia compared to married people, and widows and widowers were 20% more likely.
Other research has shown that people with spouses tend to be healthier than those without them. This may explain part of the findings, say the researchers: Married couples may motivate each other to exercise, eat healthfully, maintain social ties and smoke and drink less—all things that are associated with a lower risk for dementia.
Grieving the death of a spouse can also increase stress levels, they say, which may affect nerve signaling in the brain and impair cognitive abilities.
Because the studies were observational, they could only find a link between marital status and dementia risk, not a cause-and-effect relationship. The researchers also did not have information about how long people had been divorced or widowed, which may have provided more clues to the nature of the association.