SINGAPORE: Support from a spouse and close friends may save you from dementia, depression and heart disease, according to Loughborough University researchers.
In the study published in Journals of Gerontology, married people were found to have a 60 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than single adults. Not only that, married people were also less likely to be depressed and suffer from heart disease, according to the study that followed 6,677 people for over six years. The subjects involved were between the ages of 52 and 90.
Professor Eef Hogervorst said in a Daily Mail article dated Oct 30: "It might be because married men have healthier lifestyles - better diets, less alcohol, less smoking and earlier health services visits".
Having close friends may also have a protective effect against dementia, according to the same study. None of the study subjects had dementia at the beginning but over the period, 220 developed dementia. To find out how social lives affect risk, the researchers compared the traits of those who did and did not develop dementia.
Prof Hogervorst found that having close friends acts as a "buffer" against stress. "We are social creatures and reduction of stress through social support may be more important than previously thought," she said. However, it is the quality and not quantity of the friendship that plays a part in keeping dementia at bay, said Prof Hogervorst.
According to Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, loneliness is an issue in dementia. In a BBC article published on Oct 28, he said that dementia is known to take root decades before it is diagnosed. Some of the early signs affect people's ability to socialise.
"If people are not properly supported, dementia can be an incredibly isolating experience. It is essential people with dementia are supported to maintain meaningful social connections and continue living their life as they want," said Dr Brown.