Could Loneliness Contribute To Dementia?

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According to a new study, marriage could well be the key to staving off dementia - meaning loneliness might be a factor in contributing to dementia.

Experts conducted an analysis of over 15 previous studies, including data about dementia and relationships from across the world. And the results, published in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, seemed to indicate that those who are single or widowed are more likely to develop the brain disease.

In fact, people who are single have a 42% higher risk of developing dementia than married couples, according to the study. And those who had sadly been widowed had an increased risk of 20% of being diagnosed with the disease.

And previous studies, including a Dutch study from 2012, have also indicated that loneliness could contribute to dementia, due to the isolation and the impact it can have on the brain. 

The study, published again in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, found that those who suffer from loneliness have a 64% great risk of getting the disease.

So why is this the case? The researchers of this most recent study, led by professors from University College London, explained that people in relationships  are often more social.

Plus, the stress and strains brought on by the bereavement of a close, loved one, could also contribute to the development of dementia, researchers say.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Society, commented on the news, and revealed that there is indeed a link between marriage and a reduced risk of dementia.

He said, "Recently, a number of studies exploring the link between marital status and dementia risk have hit the headlines.

"As this research combines evidence from 15 different studies, we can be more confident in the conclusion that married people, on average, have a reduced risk of dementia compared to those who are single."

However, he explained that the studies can't completely verify the reasons behind the findings.

"These studies can't tell us what it is about married life that is important for brain health, but the analysis hints that poorer physical health among those who remain single is partly responsible.

"The daily social contact that inevitably comes with marriage may also play a role, but more research is needed to confirm this is the case."

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Dr James Pickett also commented on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's recent exciting engagement news, and declared that for them being married might not be the magic cure for dementia.

He confessed, "Unfortunately for Harry and Meghan, I highly doubt marriage itself is a magic remedy for dementia - the positive benefits it may bring to combat loneliness and improve physical health can be achieved in other ways.

"The best advice for people who are worried about dementia is to maintain good physical health by eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and properly managing diabetes and high blood pressure, alongside regular social and mental stimulation."

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