New research out of Norway suggests that getting and staying married can reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Social scientists in Oslo with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health examined 8,700 adults between the ages of 44 and 68, and then looked at their likelihood of suffering from dementia after the age of 70. U.S. News summed up the findings this way:
Researchers found that compared with both divorced people and lifelong singles, older adults in a long-term marriage were less likely to develop dementia. Roughly 11% were diagnosed with dementia after age 70, versus 12% to 14% of their divorced or single counterparts.
When the researchers weighed other factors that could affect dementia risk — like education levels and lifestyle habits — long-term marriage was still linked to a protective effect: Divorced and unmarried adults were 50% to 73% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
The sad reality needs to be acknowledged that longtime happily married couples are not immune from memory deterioration. Far too many husbands and wives will affirm this tragic fact. But the findings are nevertheless intriguing. They’re also not the first time a correlation between marriage and memory health was identified.
Bjorn Heine Strand, senior scientist with the sponsoring institution behind the study, stated, “Marriage has been reported to be associated with reduced dementia risk in numerous studies, and our results add to this evidence.”
Previous research has suggested happy marriages lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and depression – conditions known to add to an increased risk of dementia.
There’s an old saying that “everything effects everything else” and this is certainly the case when it comes to marital happiness. Happily married couples tend to have better diets and are more likely to exercise. Happily married people are also less likely to smoke and more likely to have higher levels of education.
There’s also been speculation that a pleasant spouse can provide intellectual and emotional stimulation that helps thwart cognitive decline. Having someone to talk to about our day, whether it be involving our joys, our concerns, or our frustrations, is a very healthy benefit.
When God declared in Genesis that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (2:8) – He was communicating that we all benefit from the power of relationship. Single people are not hapless, helpless or hopeless – but when it is God’s will, a spouse can make a major difference in our life.
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