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Singles Are At Higher Alzheimer’s Risk

Armen Hareyan's picture

People living alone in middle age are at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia than married people.

The study on single life and Alzheimer's disease comes from a team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Researchers examined 1449 Finnish people, who were questioned twice - once in 1977 and 21 year later in1998. About 10% of participants (139 people) developed different forms of dementia, 48 of them developed Alzheimer’s.

Researchers found that those living alone are at 50% higher risk for developing dementia later in life. Those who have been alone during whole life are at twice as higher risk, those who were divorced when middle-aged where at three time higher risk.

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"Cognitive and intellectual stimulation has been reported to be protective against dementia in general," says study author Krister Hakansson from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. "Living in a couple means that you are confronted with other ideas, perspectives and needs. You have to compromise, make decisions and solve problems together with someone else, which is more complicated and challenging. It is probably easier to get stuck in your own habits and routines if you live by yourself."

However, researchers suggest that those who are not married and are living alone should not be hopeless. They need to adopt active lifestyle rules, such as a Mediterranean diet, lot of exercising and not smoking, to reduce dementia risk.

Researchers excluded other factors affecting dementia risk, but still it was clear that married people are at lower risk. This is the first research examining the link between dementia and personal life, but there are other researchers examining how social inter interaction affects Alzheimer’s. This research comes to remind that socially active life significantly lowers cognitive decline.

Karolinska research says that "widows and widowers ran the greatest risk Those at greatest risk of developing dementia diseases were people who had lost their partner before middle age and then continued to live as a widow or widower. The study showed that the chances of developing Alzheimers for these individuals were six times greater than for married couples.

"This suggests two influencing factors social and intellectual stimulation and trauma," says Mr Håkansson. "In practice, it shows how important it is to put resources into helping people who have undergone a crisis. If our interpretation will hold, such an intervention strategy could also be profitable for society considering the costs for dementia care."