Friday, August 01, 2008

I Don't Worry About Dying Alone Because I Probably Won't Remember It

Dark humor aside, the New York Times health blog Well ran a post this morning that discusses the findings of a study that looked at the likelihood of dementia for people who undergo relationship changes in midlife. Quoting the essential data:
It tracked 2,000 men and women in Finland beginning at the age of 50 and followed up with them 21 years later.

They found that people who were living with a spouse or a partner in midlife ran a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia during their older years than people living alone. How long a person had been single and the reason they were single also affected risk. Living alone for your entire adult life doubled risk, but those who had been married and then divorced and remained single in midlife showed three times the risk.

Those at greatest risk of developing dementia were people who had lost their partner before middle age and then continued to live as a widow or widower. The study showed that these individuals had a six times greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those who were married.

Bottom line is that divorce or death of a spouse significantly increases the chances of dementia and Alzheimers later in life. As scary as the statistics might be at face value, the more important takeaway from this for me is that as my wife moves out, I need to double down on building a solid and meaningful social network. I can't afford to live in my head as much as I have in the past.
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