Yes, you read that right! A recent study by researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) suggests that dementia risk is related to marital status and that being married could protect you from the condition. And no, it’s probably not because your spouse won’t let you forget that you’ve forgotten to take the bins out, again. The findings of the study (one of the first of its kind) were published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
MSU sociology professor, Hui Liu and her colleagues analysed data collected from individuals across the United States enrolled in the Health and Retirement study, between the years 2000 and 2014. The researchers followed 15,000 people aged 52 and above in 2000 and measured their cognitive function every other year, in person or on the phone.
The participants were also divided according to their marital status and the unmarried people in the sample were split into various categories, including divorced/separated, never married, and widowed.
Divorced people were found to have double the risk of dementia of married people, and divorced men appeared to do worse than divorced women. Economic issues seemed only partially to explain the heightened dementia risk in most, but not all, of the unmarried categories. Plus, factors like chronic health issues and health behaviours only slightly affected the risk for participants in the divorced and married groups, but not for those in others.
Why does this matter?
Liu said that this study could help health practitioners and policymakers better identify populations vulnerable to dementia and create well-designed intervention strategies to help reduce their risk. She called marital status “an important but overlooked” risk factor for the condition.
Liu also said that the timing of the study is critical because the number of unmarried adults across the US is increasing. She attributes this to the fact that people are living longer and as a result, have more complicated marital histories.
Liu also called dementia a “serious public health concern”; this is because according to the Alzheimer’s Association, around 5.8 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias and that it attracts a public health cost of USD 290 billion.
So, if you’re still deciding whether you want to get married eventually, maybe this could be the thing to sway your decision? Perhaps not? OK, I won’t tell you what to do, but now you know!
Written By: Tesneem Ayoub
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