Middle-aged people living alone have twice the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in later life compared with married or cohabiting people, according to a study published on bmj.com today.
While there have been a number of studies linking being in a couple to good health and longevity this is one of the first studies to focus on mid-life marital status and the risk of dementia.
The results reveal that people living without a partner during middle age had a much higher risk of developing cognitive impairment in late life compared to those living with a partner. Individuals who are widowed at this age are three times more likely to develop dementia.
The authors say these results are important for preventing dementia and cognitive impairment and that "supportive intervention for individuals who have lost a partner might be a promising strategy in preventive health care."
These results also add to a growing body of evidence for the general importance of social factors in sustaining healthy brain functioning, they conclude.