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Can marriage help prevent dementia?

There is a lot of evidence that marriage protects your health and makes you wealthier. Some studies show that it also tends to keep your mind in good working order, and that has now been confirmed by a review of 15 studies from Europe, North and South America, and Asia, involving more than 800,000 people.

Compared with people who were widowed or who had always been single, married people were significantly less likely to develop dementia, the review authors report in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

They found no difference in dementia risk between the married and divorced, but this may be because there were relatively few divorced people in the studies (thanks to the sturdier marriages of the pre- boomer generations?).

Married people accounted for between 28 and 80 per cent of people in the included studies; the widowed made up between around 8 and 48 per cent; the divorced between 0 and 16 per cent; and lifelong singletons between 0 and 32.5 per cent.

A risk worth preventing

Globally, about 47 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year, according to the World Health Organization, which ranks dementia as the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, CNN reports.

Dementia means dependency – something we have been taught to hate, and to curtail, if necessary, by (more or less) voluntary euthanasia. So it is definitely something worth preventing – by fostering marriage, if this research is anything to go by.

Singles at greater risk

Compared with those who were married, lifelong singletons were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia, after taking account of age and sex. Poorer physical health may be a reason, the researchers suggest. However, they also point out that the increased risk amongst singles is lower (24 percent) in the most recent studies, which included people born after 1927, indicating that this may have lessened over time.

Once again, the sample size was small and one would only be guessing at what was behind this decline. One would also have to know whether the single state in each case was voluntary or by default, since unwanted singlehood could be a cause of depression, perhaps increasing the risk of dementia later on.

Read more at Mercatornet. 

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