Dementia in old age: Scientists have made interesting discoveries in the field related to marital status. (Source: Matthias Stolt via www.imago-images.de)
What influence do our partnerships have on the risk of dementia? Researchers have dealt with this question – and experienced surprises.
Partnerships can have a significant impact on the risk of developing dementia. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health (NIPH/FHI) conducted a study that found people who were married for many years without interruption had a lower risk of developing dementia in old age. The study also found that people who were married continuously throughout the study period had the lowest incidence of dementia. The highest incidence was found among divorced and single people.
The researchers observed people between the ages of 44 and 68 and tracked their marital status over a period of 24 years. This enabled them to analyze the influence of relationship status on the risk of developing dementia later in life. While the study shows that marriage and a lower risk of dementia are linked, neurologist Asta Håberg told Norwegian SciTech News that “exactly what causes dementia is a mystery.”
The Influence of Marital Status on Dementia Risk
The study shows that marital status has a significant impact on the risk of developing dementia. The results suggest that individuals who are married continuously throughout their lives have the lowest risk of developing dementia in old age. Those who are divorced or single have the highest risk.
While the exact reason for this link between marriage and a lower risk of dementia is unknown, the study indicates that long-term partnerships may have a positive effect on mental health. The study suggests that being married for many years without interruption in the middle section of life has major mental health benefits.
The Impact of Children on Dementia Risk
Another surprising finding of the study was the positive impact of having children on the risk of developing dementia. According to the data, the risk of dementia is reduced by 60 percent for those with children. The researchers suggest that raising children may keep individuals cognitively engaged, as they have more to do with other people and take part in activities that they would not do otherwise. This could stimulate the brain and build up cognitive reserve.
The Mystery of Dementia
Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While the study sheds some light on the link between marriage, children, and a lower risk of dementia, much remains unknown. The study did not confirm a theory that long-term couples take better care of their health. Medically relevant information provided by the study participants, including blood pressure, psychological problems, obesity, diabetes, physical fitness, and smoking habits, did not show a connection.
The study suggests that the cognitive reserve built up through activities like raising children cannot be seen in the brain’s structure or in MRI scans. The Norwegian researchers hope that the data they have collected will provide even more answers in the coming years and help to finally solve the dementia puzzle.
- Sage Journals: “Marital Histories and Associations With Later-Life Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment Risk in the HUNT4 70+ Study in Norway“
- Norwegian ScieTech News: “Lifelong marriage lowers risk of dementia“