People who aren’t married are more likely to develop dementia, according to a new study, so maybe you should stop ignoring your mother when she nags you about settling down.

Researchers said that association between cognitive decline in single and widowed people is compared to those who are still married, based on their analysis of more than 800,000 subjects. According to a paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, people who remain single their entire lives have a 42 percent higher risk of getting dementia than married people. Widows and widowers, meanwhile, showed a 20 percent greater risk of the disease.

The analysis did not show an increased risk of dementia for divorced people.

To offer an explanation for the increased risk of dementia that terminally single people may have, the researchers explain that being married can often contribute to a healthier lifestyle, including increased physical activity, due to the influence of a partner. There is also “different social engagement in married and single people, which may contribute to building cognitive reserve and reducing dementia risk over the lifespan.”

wife-husband If you don’t want to get dementia, get married. Photo: CC0 Creative Commons

Alternatively, lifelong singles might have traits that make them less likely to get hitched while also contributing to a higher dementia risk, such as certain “difficulties in flexibility of thought or communication and consequent smaller lifelong cognitive reserve.”

According to the study, the death of a partner might increase dementia risk while divorce does not because of the difference in stress that widows experience as compared to divorcees.

Social interactions, stress and physical health have all been found to contribute to or reduce dementia risk in previous research.

It was unclear in the current study whether the length of time a person was unmarried due to divorce or being widowed played a role in dementia risk. The researchers called for more investigation into the link between marriage and dementia risk, and how social and health factors play into that connection.

“Dementia prevention in unmarried people should focus on education and physical health and should consider the possible effect of social engagement as a modifiable risk factor,” the scientists wrote.