Getting married is a big decision, with a lot of benefits that come along with tying the knot. But now, recent research suggests that there might be a hidden bonus to our mental health after nuptials. A new paper published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry suggests there may be a link between resistance to forms of dementia like Alzheimers and whether or not we’re betrothed. In fact, according to the data, perpetually single people saw a whopping 42% higher risk of dementia than their wedded counterparts.
But why could this be? As we’ve explored on the blog here before, the relationship between correlation and causation is a tricky one, and that’s the case here. It’s not necessarily the raw fact of the person being married that is tied to their increased mental acuity: we have to look at lifestyle factors and other commonalities that married individuals share with one another.
Are you suddenly considering rushing to the altar to shore up your defenses against dementia? Not so fast. Being married, as we mentioned, isn’t the whole story and it isn’t quite enough to provide the benefits suggested by the study. No, the researchers hypothesize, the benefits come with a higher volume of social brain function, keeping certain parts of our gray matter in good use via navigating the complexities of social interaction with your spouse.
That means that married couples who don’t spend a lot of time interacting, or who don’t challenge each other, won’t receive the same cognitive benefits of those that keep each other on their toes. It’s part of our greater overall function in a social culture, and it’s evidence that our social (and mental) health often has direct ties to our physical well-being. Warding off conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease is largely a function of being able to stay mentally spry with lively conversation, puzzles and games, and entertainment or activities that cause you to think critically, not just mindlessly consume.
If you’re feeling thankful for your spouse this holiday season, let them know — they’re keeping you mentally strong, too!