TUESDAY, Feb. 14, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Staying married in midlife is associated with a lower risk for dementia, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Aging and Health.

Vegard Skirbekk, Ph.D., from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, and colleagues examined marital status trajectories (i.e., unmarried, continuously divorced, intermittently divorced, widowed, continuously married, intermittently married) at midlife (ages 44 to 68 years) and their association with dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at age 70 years or older. The analysis included data from 8,706 individuals identified in a national registry.

The researchers found that 11.6 percent of participants were diagnosed with dementia and 35.3 percent were diagnosed with MCI. Among individuals continuously married, dementia prevalence was lowest (11.2 percent). In an adjusted analysis, the risk for dementia was higher for the unmarried (relative risk ratio, 1.73), continuously divorced (relative risk ratio, 1.66), and intermittently divorced (relative risk ratio, 1.50) compared with individuals who were continuously married. Marital trajectory was less associated with MCI than with dementia. If all participants had the same risk for receiving a dementia diagnosis as the continuously married group, there would be a 6.0 percent reduction in dementia cases.

“Being married can have an influence on risk factors,” Skirbekk said in a statement. “You become more cognitively active, you cope better with adversity, and are less subject to stress. The partner represents a security that provides a buffer.”

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