How wedded bliss can lower risk of developing dementia
Marriage may lower the risk of developing dementia, according to a new survey of research worldwide.
Lifelong singletons and widowers are at heightened risk of developing the disease, according to findings published online in the 'Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry'.
Some 15 studies published up to the end of 2016 looked at the potential role of marital status on dementia risk.
Pooled analysis showed that, compared with those who were married, lifelong singletons were between 24pc and 42pc more likely to develop dementia. Part of this risk might be explained by poorer physical health among single people.
The widowed were 20pc more likely to develop dementia than married people, although this is lessened when education levels were considered.
The death of a partner is likely to boost stress levels, which is associated with impaired nerve signalling and cognitive abilities.
No such associations were found for those who had divorced their partners.
Researchers said marriage may help both partners to have healthier lifestyles, including exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and smoking and drinking less, all of which have been associated with lower risk of dementia.
Couples may also have more opportunities for social engagement than single people - a factor that has been linked to better health and lower dementia risk. Two of the researchers in the survey said that, should marital status be seen as a modifiable risk factor for dementia, "the challenge remains as to how these observations can be translated into effective means of dementia prevention".
The discovery of potentially modifiable risk factors doesn't mean dementia can easily be prevented, said Christopher Chen and Vincent Mok, of the National University of Singapore and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.