Many studies have been carried out to investigate the impact of marriage and divorce on health.

One of the latest studies has looked at links between dementia and marriage, reports the British Medical Journal, and concluded that married people have a lower risk of developing the disease.

The research, which was published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, looked at data from 15 previous studies that covered more than 800,000 participants from Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Researchers found that compared with those who were married, lifelong singletons were 42% more likely to develop dementia, after taking account of age and sex. 

They suggested that this may be partly explained by poorer physical health among lifelong single people. However, the most recent studies, which included people born after 1927, indicated a risk of 24%, which suggests that this may have lessened over time, although it is not clear why, say the researchers.

The widowed were 20% per cent more likely to develop dementia than married people, although the strength of this association was apparently weakened when educational attainment was factored in. But bereavement is likely to boost stress levels, which have been associated with impaired nerve signalling and cognitive abilities, the researchers note.

No such associations were found for those who had divorced their partners, although this may partly be down to the smaller numbers of people of this status included in the studies, the researchers point out.

However, the lower risk among married people persisted even after further more detailed analysis, which, the researchers suggest, reflects “the robustness of the findings.”

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