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Posted: August 05, 2008

Alzheimer's Risk Doubled or Tripled for Single People: Study

Having a life partner or spouse can have its advantages, and according to new research, we should add reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to the benefit column.

A new study detailed at an international Alzheimer’s meeting found that single people in their 40s and 50s are twice to three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s two decades later as someone living with a partner.


The reason: Swedish researchers think the daily social interaction, personal closeness and intense level of communication of two people in a relationship actually helps keep the brain healthy.


At the opposite extreme, researchers discovered that people who are single, or live alone, all their life have double the risk of contracting the fatal, mind-robbing disease. What’s more, people who divorced in middle age turned out to triple their risk.


Worse, by far, the researchers said, are those who are widowed before reaching middle age and remain single for the rest of their lives. For these individuals, the risk of Alzheimer’s is six times greater than people who are married by middle age and stay married.


Meanwhile, if you are married in middle age, or living with a partner, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s is cut in half, when compared to someone living alone, according to the findings.


The study, conducted at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, involved 1,449 participants, who were monitored for more than 21 years. During that time, 139 people developed cognitive impairment, of which 48 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's.


"This study points to the beneficial effects of a married life, consistent with the general hypothesis of social stimulation as a protective factor against dementia," the study’s lead author, Krister Hakansson, told last week’s International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Chicago.

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