Divorcees more likely to develop dementia
Divorcees are about twice as likely as married people to develop dementia, a Michigan State University study has found.
The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, found that married people were less likely to experience dementia as they aged.
Divorced men showed a greater disadvantage than divorced women.
Sociology Professor Hui Liu and colleagues analysed four groups of unmarried individuals: divorced or separated, widowed, never married and cohabiting. Among them, the divorced had the highest risk of dementia.
The researchers analysed nationally representative data from a Health and Retirement Study from 2000–2014. The sample included more than 15,000 respondents ages 52 and older in 2000, measuring their cognitive function every two years in person or via telephone.
The researchers found differing economic resources only partly accounted for higher dementia risk among divorced, widowed and never-married respondents, but couldn’t account for higher risk in cohabiters.
In addition, health-related factors, such as behaviours and chronic conditions, slightly influenced risk among the divorced and married, but didn’t seem to affect other marital statuses.
Prof Liu said the study comes at a time when 5.8 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, costing $290 billion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It is a serious public health concern, Prof Liu said.
In Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death and is estimated to cost the nation more than $15 billion a year, statistics from Dementia Australia show.
There are currently an estimated 447,115 Australians living with dementia.
“This research is important because the number of unmarried older adults in the United States continues to grow, as people live longer and their marital histories become more complex,” Prof Liu said.
“Marital status is an important but overlooked social risk [or] protective factor for dementia.
“These findings will be helpful for health policymakers and practitioners who seek to better identify vulnerable populations and to design effective intervention strategies to reduce dementia risk.”
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