A study published in the July 2009 edition of the British Medical Journal finds that people who lived with a partner during middle age had much lower odds of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Researchers in Sweden and Finland collected data on 1,449 people as part of a large study on cardiovascular risk factors, ageing and dementia. They were first interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s, when their average age was 50, and again nearly 21 years later. On both occasions, they were asked whether they were single, married, divorced or widowed. In the second interview, their cognitive function was also assessed.

The lowest rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s were found in people who were married at mid-life, according to the study. By comparison, people who were still single at mid-life or divorced were 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia and 1.8 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Those who were widowed were 3.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 2.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s, the study found.

The findings are in line with previous studies that have found that mental stimulation – in the form of education, work or intellectual leisure activities – has a protective effect against cognitive decline. People who develop rich social networks also seem to reduce their risk.

This new study makes a convincing case that the intellectual (as well as social) stimulation provided by a spouse is a key factor in long-term mental health.

But the study’s authors said things are probably more complicated. If simply living with another person were the key factor, people who were never married would have had a higher incidence of dementia than people who were widowed, they wrote. Because widows and widowers were most at risk, the researchers speculated that the “psychosocial trauma” associated with the death of a spouse could initiate a detrimental immune system response that triggers the onset of dementia in people with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s. In the study, the people at highest risk were those who were widowed and also had the e4 variant of a gene called ApoE, which has been linked to the disease.

This follows on from the Newsletter I sent a couple of weeks ago about the need for exercise, correct diet vitamins and now we can add social interaction...

In The Alzheimer's Alternative, I mention lots of supplements you can take to improve Alzheimer's, lots of activities you can participate in to also improve it – but now we need to add another...

I am not suggesting you go out and get married but I do suggest you go out and find a friend. It is also well known that if you become friendly to people you will find lots more friends around!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Steffan H. Abel D.C. has been involved in Chiropractic and healthcare research for over 20 years. He has run his own successful practice in the north of England for the last 19 years. During which time he has treated over 10,000 patients and given over 100,000 treatments. He has lectured and taught extensively in both Europe and America to students, chiropractors and medical doctors.

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He has studied Hypnotherapy, N.L.P. and qualified as a Life Coach. He has also studied various Chiropractic-based treatments (gaining a M.Sc. in post graduate Clinical Chiropractic in 2003) as well as energy therapies such as Seichem and Reiki. In 2001 he became a Fellow of the College of Chiropractors and a Fellow of the Association of Osteomyology and in 2007 became a Fellow of the European Academy of Chiropractic.

In his spare time he spends between 15 and 25 hours per week researching all areas of “alternative” and allopathic healthcare in order to bring the best advice to his patients through his practice and writing and has just finished his latest book The Alzheimer's Alternative (www.alzheimersalternative.com). When not working he is to be found enjoying life with Sue, his partner, – whom he loves tremendously!