The benefits of marriage could be far reaching

Recent research confirms the growing bank of evidence that marriage gives some protection from dementia.

Analysis of more than 800,000 people, who participated in 15 previously published studies, found the risk of dementia was significantly lower for married people than for adults who remained single for their entire lives.

The research, which predominantly included people from Sweden but also from other parts of Europe, Asia, the United States and Brazil, also found husbands and wives fared better against types of cognitive decline than widowers and widows.

The report, carried out at University College London and published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, found those who were married were almost one-third less likely to develop dementia. Being widowed increases the risk of dementia by 20 per cent, suggesting the stress of bereavement could affect cognitive decline.

Jason Axford, Care UK Residential Care Service’s lead quality development manager, said: “I think people have understood the importance of the effects partnerships have on wellbeing for a long time, which is why our teams work with our residents’ partners to ensure they have every opportunity to keep up that bond.”

“We help them to mark anniversaries with special meals cooked by our chefs and with tables specially decorated or, if it is possible, we will also arrange for residents to be taken to a favourite restaurant or place they love with their partner. We also make a special effort on Valentine’s Day as living in a care home doesn’t have to spell the end of romance.”

Jason believes that the interaction of married life keeps people sharper. “When a couple walk down a road and see a car they once owned, or they hear a record on the radio, it starts a train of thought and conversation that leads them to reminisce. This has a powerful effect on the brain and our sense of wellbeing.”

Jason explained that couples who have been together for a long time also benefit from an unspoken bond. “A couple can sit together in silence but it is not an uncomfortable silence. That calm reassurance has health benefits, reducing the stresses and strains of life.”

But, he says, couples also benefit from the banter only long-established relationships can enjoy: “It is lovely to watch an older couple enjoy some compassionate ridicule, where they can laugh at something the other has said or done, maybe years before, and it brings about the deep chuckle that only comes from deep memories and friendship.”

So, no matter how irritating the socks left on the floor may be, they could be worth putting up with for a healthier future.