Your relationship status could help you avoid dementia, study suggests

Hoping to maintain a good memory as you age? Marriage could help, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Michigan State University recently conducted a study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, to explore the association between marital status and dementia.

To do so, they examined 15,000 adults, ages 52 and older, categorizing them into four categories: unmarried individuals: divorced or separated; widowed; never married; and cohabiters.

The team measured the subjects’ cognitive function every two years, either in person or via phone, over a 14-year period.

After analyzing the results, they found divorcees were two times more likely to suffer from dementia, compared to married people.

In fact, divorcees had the highest risk of developing the condition, compared to the other groups, with divorced men being at greater risk than divorced women.

"This research is important because the number of unmarried older adults in the United States continues to grow, as people live longer and their marital histories become more complex," co-author Hui Liu said in a statement. "Marital status is an important but overlooked social risk/protective factor for dementia."

The scientists now hope policy makers and practitioners will use their findings to design intervention strategies that help reduce dementia risk.