The partners of people who have dementia could be six times more likely than others to develop the syndrome because of the stress and depression they experience while caring for their loved one, researchers in the US have claimed.
Scientists from Utah State University studied 1,221 married couples aged over 65; those with dementia were compared against those without it. The husbands were apparently more at risk than the wives but the researchers said this may just be down to chance.
Around 200 people developed dementia during the 12 years of the research. A total of 125 cases of dementia were diagnosed in the husband only, 70 in the wife only and 30 cases in which both spouses were diagnosed (60 people).
The researchers said they believe stress increases the likelihood of developing dementia but that they needed more study on whether shared lifestyle factors and the environment in which a couple lived had any influence.
Those caring for someone with dementia said they experienced more stress and had to provide more support than people who cared for someone who had physical disabilities.