Intact Marriage reduces the risk of Dementia

December 12, 2017  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment

Intact Marriage reduces the risk of Dementia According to a New Meta-Analysis

A new meta analysis of 15 studies involving 800,000-plus subjects—mostly Swedes and Americans—shows lifelong single people have a 41% higher risk of dementia than similarly-aged people who remain married. Those single through divorce or widowhood fall between, says the study just published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and  Psychiatry. It’s available for all to see here. But TIME magazine offers a more readable take here.

The study reports on the data from all the studies and makes no claims about why marriage appears to prevent dementia. However, the study’s authors do speculate. Here’s a paragraph of their speculation.


   Marital status has potential to affect dementia risk by increasing daily social interaction. 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.5 Marriage may result in more frequent social contact, which is associated with reduced dementia risk,6 and reduced harmful lifestyle behaviours.7 8 Bereavement or divorce in people who had been married may promote dementia development through stress, which is pathogenic9 and associated with increased dementia risk.10 Being unmarried is associated with adverse health behaviours7and a range of poorer health outcomes. A meta-analysis of observational studies found lower mortality for married than unmarried people11; health of unmarried Americans is worse than that of married people8; being married is related to improved cancer survival12; and widowhood is associated with disability in older people.13


Social science increasingly reveals marriage’s benefits. For instance, “The Times They Are a Changin’: Marital Status and Health Differentials from 1972 to 2003,” in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior  reports that  married people are more likely to be healthy than the unmarried, divorced, separated and widowed. This and other studies can be found on the MARRI website in an article titled “164 reasons to marry”. Forty two of them are direct health benefits while the rest cover a wide variety of measures ranging from income, to criminal activity to more successful children.



For further information about aging well, check out Elizabeth Blackburn’s TED talk. Particularly 13:39 and 15:14 (quoted below).

Elizabeth talks about the capacity to change your brain state, moving out of overwhelmed and negative to warm blooded and a challenged state of mind.



On the other hand, if you typically see something stressful as a challenge to be tackled, then blood flows to your heart and to your brain, and you experience a brief but energizing spike of cortisol. And thanks to that habitual “bring it on” attitude, your telomeres do just fine. So … What is all of this telling us? Your telomeres do just fine. You really do have power to change what is happening to your own telomeres.




Research and inspiration provided by Steve Weatherbe



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