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Study: Here’s why marriage is linked to a lower risk of dementia

Want to lower your chances of getting dementia? Getting married might do the trick, according to a new study. 

»RELATED: Atlanta museum program helps people in early stages of dementia

Researchers from universities in London recently conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, to determine the association between marriage, a healthier lifestyle, lower mortality and reduced risk of dementia.

To do so, they reviewed 15 previously published studies that involved more than 800,000 people across North and South America, Europe and Asia.

After analyzing all of the data, scientists found that people who never married were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia, while married individuals, widows and widowers were just 20 percent more likely. 

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They also discovered that married people have an overall healthier lifestyle. The authors wrote, “being married may change individuals’ exposure to other protective and risk factors throughout their subsequent lifespan,” such as eating healthier, getting married and remaining social. 

Although unmarried people have a higher possibility of developing dementia, the risk has been lower in recent years. 

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“Dementia could be related to other underlying cognitive or personality traits meaning that in societies where marriage was the social norm, people with difficulties in flexibility of thought or communication...may be less likely to marry,” the authors said. “Remaining unmarried has become more common, and it may be that single people born in the latter half of the 20th century have fewer unusual cognitive and personality characteristics.”

Researchers are now looking forward to further investigations about the link between marital status and dementia and methods of intervention. 

“It should, in particular, evaluate the contribution of social contact and health behaviour,” they said, “use studies with sufficient follow-up to allow exploration of premarriage cognitive characteristics; and use cohort studies with sufficient detail on the duration of marriage, widowhood or divorce to allow the exploration of a dose–response effect.”

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