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Marriage and parenthood could protect against age-related cognitive decline

News
July 23, 2022
By
Ehab Naim, MBA.

Those who were married and had children reported higher degrees of cognitive function and the lowest scores were achieved by those who had never married and single, unmarried parents.

Age-associated cognitive decline is a significant contributor to diminished quality of life. According to estimates, the number of people living with dementia in the US will be 13.8 million in 2050, more than double the number in 2019 (5.8 million).

The literature indicates that marriage and parenthood could potentially positively influence cognition. However, most of the available literature focuses on separate events, like marital disruptions and the age at first childbirth. A more holistic approach considers all of the said points and more when determining their effect on cognition. This change in the research paradigm is partly related to the shift in family behavior, like delayed marriage, in the United States and the Western nations.

Research shows that married individuals or those living with a partner are less likely to show cognitive impairment at later stages than single, separated, or widowed people. Also, they tend to display a slower rate of cognitive decline over time. Similarly, strong social connections and consistent social support were found to preserve cognitive function. In a similar context, parenthood at the age of 35 and above was linked to better cognitive functioning compared to early parenthood.

To better understand the relationship between fertility and partnership history with later-life cognitive capacities, Dr. Sironi analyzed a sample of over 11,800 subjects. The sample was representative of the US population and derived from the Health and Retirement Study. The author proposed three hypotheses as follows: 

  • Married individuals with children would have better late-life cognitive capacities compared to those who remain single, childless, or experience disruptions like divorce. 
  • The association between family and cognitive abilities could vary based on gender. 
  • The previously-mentioned associations would be partly or mostly explained by early life socioeconomic status, childhood health, and levels of social support and social interactions. 

Cognitive capacity was tested using three tests, like the immediate and delayed word recall assessment.

Results revealed that those who were married and had children reported higher degrees of cognitive function. Also, disruption in marital status did not contribute to lower cognitive functioning. In addition, results revealed that the lowest scores were achieved by those who had never married and single, unmarried parents. These results partly confirm the first hypothesis, except that divorced people did not have lower cognitive skills. Similarly, results were partially confirmed for hypothesis 2, where smooth marital life and a fertility history were associated with better cognitive function in men. The third hypothesis was also partly confirmed, where cumulative social interactions over time were found to play a role in late-life cognitive capacities.     

The author confirmed the multi-factor association between marital and fertility histories with late-life cognition. This calls for measures to protect the vulnerable groups to offset the cumulative negative effects of remaining single for life or experiencing single motherhood.

Source: Sironi M. The Role of Fertility and Partnership History in Later-life Cognition. Ageing International. 2022 Jul 11:1-22, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-022-09500-x

Age-associated cognitive decline is a significant contributor to diminished quality of life. According to estimates, the number of people living with dementia in the US will be 13.8 million in 2050, more than double the number in 2019 (5.8 million).

The literature indicates that marriage and parenthood could potentially positively influence cognition. However, most of the available literature focuses on separate events, like marital disruptions and the age at first childbirth. A more holistic approach considers all of the said points and more when determining their effect on cognition. This change in the research paradigm is partly related to the shift in family behavior, like delayed marriage, in the United States and the Western nations.

Research shows that married individuals or those living with a partner are less likely to show cognitive impairment at later stages than single, separated, or widowed people. Also, they tend to display a slower rate of cognitive decline over time. Similarly, strong social connections and consistent social support were found to preserve cognitive function. In a similar context, parenthood at the age of 35 and above was linked to better cognitive functioning compared to early parenthood.

To better understand the relationship between fertility and partnership history with later-life cognitive capacities, Dr. Sironi analyzed a sample of over 11,800 subjects. The sample was representative of the US population and derived from the Health and Retirement Study. The author proposed three hypotheses as follows: 

  • Married individuals with children would have better late-life cognitive capacities compared to those who remain single, childless, or experience disruptions like divorce. 
  • The association between family and cognitive abilities could vary based on gender. 
  • The previously-mentioned associations would be partly or mostly explained by early life socioeconomic status, childhood health, and levels of social support and social interactions. 

Cognitive capacity was tested using three tests, like the immediate and delayed word recall assessment.

Results revealed that those who were married and had children reported higher degrees of cognitive function. Also, disruption in marital status did not contribute to lower cognitive functioning. In addition, results revealed that the lowest scores were achieved by those who had never married and single, unmarried parents. These results partly confirm the first hypothesis, except that divorced people did not have lower cognitive skills. Similarly, results were partially confirmed for hypothesis 2, where smooth marital life and a fertility history were associated with better cognitive function in men. The third hypothesis was also partly confirmed, where cumulative social interactions over time were found to play a role in late-life cognitive capacities.     

The author confirmed the multi-factor association between marital and fertility histories with late-life cognition. This calls for measures to protect the vulnerable groups to offset the cumulative negative effects of remaining single for life or experiencing single motherhood.

Source: Sironi M. The Role of Fertility and Partnership History in Later-life Cognition. Ageing International. 2022 Jul 11:1-22, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-022-09500-x

Article reviewed by
Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.
SCIENTIFIC & MEDICAL ADVISOR
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Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.

Scientific & Medical Advisor
Quality Garant

Ana has over 20 years of consultancy experience in longevity, regenerative and precision medicine. She has a multifaceted understanding of genomics, molecular biology, clinical biochemistry, nutrition, aging markers, hormones and physical training. This background allows her to bridge the gap between longevity basic sciences and evidence-based real interventions, putting them into the clinic, to enhance the healthy aging of people. She is co-founder of Origen.life, and Longevityzone. Board member at Breath of Health, BioOx and American Board of Clinical Nutrition. She is Director of International Medical Education of the American College of Integrative Medicine, Professor in IL3 Master of Longevity at Barcelona University and Professor of Nutrigenomics in Nutrition Grade in UNIR University.

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