Being single shouldn’t come with any risks. You should be able to bask in it and be happy because, in reality, there’s more to life than being in a long-term relationship and sharing someone else's last name.
However, new research published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry shows that being married might actually have a long-term health benefit, as those who decide to tie the knot face a lower risk of developing dementia.
The study was done by analyzing medical databases and talking to health experts. The researchers looked at how dementia risk is affected by being single or being widowed in comparison to being married. They looked at 15 studies involving a combined total of 812,047 participants from Europe, Asia, and North and South America.
The team found that people who have been single throughout life have a 42 percent higher risk of suffering from dementia than those who are married. Meanwhile, widowed people have a 20 percent higher risk. Interestingly, the risk for divorcees was found to be no higher than for married people.
“Spouses may help to encourage healthy habits, look out for their partner’s health and provide important social support," Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer's Research UK, told The Guardian. "Research suggests that social interaction can help to build cognitive reserve – a mental resilience that allows people to function for longer with a disease like Alzheimer’s before showing symptoms."
This isn’t the first time a study has shown that having close relationships can decrease the risk of dementia. Just last month, it was reported in Journals of Gerontology that having close friends could also help protect you against the mental illness and that the quality of friendships is more important than the number of friends you have.
And loneliness doesn't just increase your risk of dementia, it can make the condition harder to cope with for those diagnosed with it. Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, told BBC News that loneliness is a big issue amongst sufferers of dementia.
"If people are not properly supported, dementia can be an incredibly isolating experience,” he said.
"It is essential people with dementia are supported to maintain meaningful social connections and continue living their life as they want."
Additionally, Dr Phipps told The Guardian that those who are married are often healthier and live longer lives. Nevertheless, she pointed out that marriage is obviously not the only way to stay healthy. “Staying physically, mentally, and socially active are all important aspects of a healthy lifestyle and these are things everyone, regardless of their marital status, can work towards,” she said.