Why Marriage Is Great for Your Brain

New research links matrimony with decreased dementia.

Everyone knows that a happy marriage is good for the heart, but, according to new research, it might be good for the head, too. Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Sommerlad of the University of London, recently published a paper in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, which analyzed the link between marriage and dementia. To do so, they looked at 15 studies on the relationship between marriage and dementia, and found that, of the with 812,047 participants, those who stay single their whole lives, or are widowed, have a significantly higher risk of dementia compared with those who are married. They did not find a link with divorced people.

"We hypothesize that married people are at lower risk of developing dementia compared with unmarried people and that previously married people are at lower risk than those who have been lifelong single," Sommerlad wrote.

Based on the results, Sommerlad hypothesizes that the correlation between marriage and decreased dementia could be due to the way in which living with someone forces you to continue to use your mind later on in life.

"Marital status has potential to affect dementia risk by increasing daily social interaction," he wrote. "This may improve cognitive reserve, meaning that an individual has a greater ability to cope with neuropathological damage by using compensatory cognitive approaches from a physically more resilient brain to maintain cognitive ability and daily function. Marriage may result in more frequent social contact, which is associated with reduced dementia risk, and reduced harmful lifestyle behaviours."

Conversely, Sommerlad believes that perhaps a lack of social interaction, and a greater chance of engaging in harmful lifestyle behavior, is what makes those who are widowed or single for life more likely to get dementia.

Of course, the research isn't conclusive enough to say that there's a definitive link between marriage and dementia, but the fact that, even when physical health was taken into account, the risk for dementia in married people was consistently much lower than widowers and singletons, suggestes that marriage is beneficial to your longterm mental health.

Because dementia is incurable and on the rise, it's important to take into account what steps people could take to help prevent it. And, if you've found the right partner, love is the best preventative treatment in the world. And if you're still flying solo, we can help you score a new parter instantly—just use one of these 20 dating-app opening lines. 

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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