Marital Status and Dementia: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Liu, Hui, Zhenmei Zhang, Seung-won Choi, and Kenneth M. Langa. Forthcoming. "Marital Status and Dementia: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study." The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.


We provide one of the first population-based studies of variation in dementia by marital status in the U.S.


We analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (2000-2014). The sample included 15,379 respondents (6,650 men and 8,729 women) age 52 and over in 2000 who showed no evidence of dementia at the baseline survey. Dementia was assessed using either the modified version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TICS) or the proxy's assessment. Discrete-time hazard regression models were estimated to predict odds of dementia.


All unmarried groups, including the cohabiting, divorced/separated, widowed, and never married, had significantly higher odds of developing dementia over the study period than their married counterparts; economic resources and, to a lesser degree, health-related factors accounted for only part of the marital status variation in dementia. For divorced/separated and widowed respondents, the differences in the odds of dementia relative to married respondents were greater among men than among women.


These findings will be helpful for health policy makers and practitioners who seek to better identify vulnerable subpopulations and to design effective intervention strategies to reduce dementia risk.


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