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Solo Health

Singledom bad for your mental health? What?

As you know, here at Solo we’re all about celebrating being single, so you can imagine our collective horror recently when research was released, which claimed that being unattached when you reach middle age could increase your risk of dementia. Swedish studies, presented at a US conference, found that marriage or having a partner halved the risk of developing dementia. Scientists believe social interaction between couples may ward off illness and it was suggested that the problem might be even greater for some people. Divorcees who remained single, they noticed, had a trebled risk of dementia, while those widowed at a young age who stayed single faced a six times greater chance.
The research looked at 1,449 people from a Finnish database, who were asked about their relationship status in mid-life, then revisited 21 years later to see if they had developed dementia.
In total, 139 of them had some sort of cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s had been diagnosed in 48 of these. Even after other factors which might have an impact on dementia were adjusted for, the study consistently showed people with partners as less prone to the illness. Holy moley.
“Living in a couple relationship is normally one of the most intense forms of social and intellectual stimulation,” said Dr Krister Hakansson, who led the study. “If social and cognitive challenges can protect against dementia, so should living as a couple. This study points to the beneficial effects of a married life.”
Holy moley again.
Rebecca Wood from the Alzheimer’s Research Trust in the UK pointed out that further research along these lines was needed, particularly for British society, which has a high divorce rate and where marriage is at an all-time low, however, Susanne Sorenson from the Alzheimer’s Society was on hand with some words of comfort.
“Singletons shouldn’t worry – there are many other ways to reduce your risk of dementia that don’t involve popping the question,” she (thankfully) said. “The best evidence is around eating a Mediterranean diet, exercising regularly and not smoking.”
The study results were consistent with other research showing social interaction could be beneficial, she added, noting that ‘whether it’s reaching for the vacuum cleaner or going for long romantic walks, lifestyle factors associated with being married may also help’.
We’re not buying into any of this, mind you. Being single is surely not a state of being that’s bad for your health – mental or otherwise. As long as we stay active and sociable, sure we’ll all be grand.

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