Spouses of dementia sufferers have a six-fold increased risk of dementia onset, according to a new study released this week.
The research from Utah State University in the United States found older married adults whose spouse had dementia were at significantly higher risk for developing dementia themselves compared to similar older married adults whose spouse never developed dementia.
It also found that men appear to have a higher risk than women. A total of 2,442 subjects (1,221 married couples) aged 65 and older from Northern Utah, without dementia at onset were studied for up to 12 years to monitor the onset of dementia in husbands, wives or both.
During this time, 125 cases of dementia in the husband were diagnosed, 70 cases for wives and 30 where both spouses were diagnosed (60 people).
While there are many published studies showing that dementia caregivers are at higher risk of health problems and depression, none have examined the risk of dementia in the caregiver.
“Future studies are needed to determine how much of this association is due to caregiver stress compared to a shared environment,” lead researcher Dr Maria Norton said.
“Given the significant public health concern of Alzheimer’s disease and other
dementias, and the upcoming shift in population age composition, continued research into the causes of dementia is urgent.”
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.