If you’ve been lucky enough to walk down the aisle with your soulmate, you already know some of the obvious benefits of companionship. Now, scientists believe that marriage may also be beneficial for your health – think of it as a new way to ward off dementia.
Recently, a group of researchers looked through medical databases and analyzed data from 15 studies with 812,047 participants to see exactly how marriage and dementia are linked (Sommerlad, Ruegger, Singh-Manoux, Lewis, & Livingston, 2017).
“We rated methodological quality and conducted random-effects meta-analyses to summarize relative risks of being widowed, divorced or lifelong single, compared with being married,” the authors wrote in their report. “Secondary stratified analyses with meta-regression examined the impact of clinical and social context and study methodology on findings.”
In the end, they found that people who were single and widowed had an elevated risk of dementia.
“Further analyses showed that less education partially confounds the risk in widowhood and worse physical health the elevated risk in lifelong single people,” the researchers added. “Compared with studies that used clinical registers for ascertaining dementia diagnoses, those which clinically examined all participants found higher risk for being unmarried.”
But this isn’t the first study to exhibit the benefits of being married. One dating back to 2015 found that happily married people live longer and get sick less (Luscombe, 2015). However, the keyword there is “happily” – those who were in “ambivalent marriages” did not get the full benefits of being wedded, health-wise.
“There was a high level of positivity in the marriage, but there was also negativity,” Brigham Young University psychology professor Wendy Birmingham, who conducted the study, told TIME Magazine. “These are people who are committed to the marriage. There’s just a lot of negativity, which is negating the positive physiological benefits.”
The bottom line is that getting hitched isn’t the key to a long, happy, and healthy life. So what can you actually do to ward off conditions like dementia?
There are several methods, including walking to boost brain function, and socializing to stay physically and mentally active (Emling, 2017). Maintaining a healthy diet with vitamins, such as D, is also thought to keep the brain in working order over time.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your health for professional insight into how you can maintain your well-being.