(PresidentialHill.com)- Continuous marriages, especially through the middle decades of life, could lower the risk of developing dementia, according to a new study in Neuroscience News.
Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health analyzed the marital status of adults between 44 and 68 and whether any of those adults later developed dementia after age 70.
Using data from 150,000 Norwegians, the study’s results indicated that adults who stayed married during those years saw the lowest occurrence of dementia. Likewise, the data also revealed that unmarried and divorced adults experienced the highest rate of dementia.
According to the Norwegian Institute’s Vegard Skirbekk, the author of the study, marriage “can have an influence on risk factors for dementia.”
The researchers estimated that if the participants in the study had been continuously married and shared the same mental health and social characteristics, 6 percent of the dementia cases in their study “would not have occurred.”
Additionally, the study found that having children could also lower the risk of developing dementia. For the unmarried participants analyzed, those with children had a 60 percent decreased risk of dementia.
Dr. Asta Håberg, a researcher for the Norwegian Institute said one theory is that those with children have to stay more “cognitively engaged” since they are dealing with others and participating in activities they otherwise wouldn’t. Dr. Håberg explained that such engagement “stimulates your brain,” building up “a kind of cognitive reserve.”
The study’s results are part of the REFAWOR research project funded by the National Institutes of Health which studies the relationship between lifestyle and the development of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While the causes of dementia are still unknown, the study’s results offer avenues of investigation for scientists to better understand dementia and how to prevent it.
Dr. Håberg believes the study presents an exciting opportunity to investigate further how having children affects the risk of dementia.
While the study doesn’t address the biology behind dementia, the Institute’s Vegard Skirbekk believes it does show that being married could influence the risk factors as it makes someone “more cognitively active,” better able to cope with adversity, and subject to less stress.