Conventional wisdom says that you will live healthier as you reach an advanced age if you live with a partner. A Scandinavian study published in July 2009 confirms that wisdom with respect to cognitive capability. The study, Association between mid-life marital status and cognitive function in later life: population based cohort study, had the objective of looking at whether mid-life marital status is related to cognitive function in later life. The study looked at a previously-researched sample of 1449 individuals from the Kuopio and Joensuu regions in eastern Finland with an average follow-up period of 21 years.
“Results: People cohabiting with a partner in mid-life (mean age 50.4) were less likely than all other categories (single, separated, or widowed) to show cognitive impairment later in life at ages 65-79. Those widowed or divorced in mid-life and still so at follow-up had three times the risk compared with married or cohabiting people. Those widowed both at mid-life and later life had an odds ratio of 7.67 (1.6 to 40.0) for Alzheimer’s disease compared with married or cohabiting people. The highest increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease was in carriers of the apolipoprotein E e4 allele who lost their partner before mid-life and were still widowed or divorced at follow-up. The progressive entering of several adjustment variables from mid-life did not alter these associations(ref).”
I find these statistics impressive; three times the risk is way beyond a marginal effect. If you are living successfully with a partner you probably have to exercise your mind more. The report concludes “Living in a relationship with a partner might imply cognitive and social challenges that have a protective effect against cognitive impairment later in life, consistent with the brain reserve hypothesis. The specific increased risk for widowed and divorced people compared with single people indicates that other factors are needed to explain parts of the results. A sociogenetic disease model might explain the dramatic increase in risk of Alzheimer’s disease for widowed apolipoprotein E e4 carriers.”
It is Sunday evening now and I am going to stop writing so I can hang out with my wife.