Women living with a spouse or a partner in midlife run a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia than women living alone, says Krister Håkansson, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "The results are astounding. They indicate a very strong correlation between this type of social factor and the risk of developing dementia," said Håkansson.
The new findings are based on data from a Finnish study, which was unique in that 2,000 people were examined at the age of around 50 and again twenty-one years later.
Håkansson noted that how long a person had been single and for what reasons also affected the chances of developing dementia. Those who had lived alone their entire adult life ran twice the risk, while those who were divorced in midlife and remained subsequently single ran three times the risk.
Widows and widowers ran the greatest risk. Those at greatest risk of developing dementia diseases were people who had lost their partner before middle age and then continued to live as a widow or widower. The study showed that the chances of developing Alzheimer's for these individuals were six times greater than for married couples.
"This suggests two influencing factors - social and intellectual stimulation and trauma," says Håkansson. "In practice, it shows how important it is to put resources into helping people who have undergone a crisis. If our interpretation will hold, such an intervention strategy could also be profitable for society considering the costs for dementia care."
Make Friends, Avoid Alzheimer's
Attitude Key To Successful Aging
Exercise Intellect To Avoid Dementia
Source: Karolinska Institutet