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Spousal loss and cognitive function in later life: a 25-year follow-up in the AGES-Reykjavik study.


ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between loss of a life partner and the development of dementia and decline in cognitive function in later life. We used an Icelandic cohort of 4,370 participants in the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility-Reykjavik Study who were living as married in 1978 (born in 1907-1935) and were either still married (unexposed cohort) or widowed (exposed cohort) at follow-up (in 2002-2006). We ascertained history of marital status and spouse's death by record linkage to the Registry of the Total Population, Statistics Iceland. The outcome measures were as follows: 1) dementia and mild cognitive impairment; and 2) memory, speed of processing, and executive function. During the observation period, 3,007 individuals remained married and 1,363 lost a spouse through death. We did not find any significant associations between loss of a spouse and our outcome variables, except that widowed women had poorer executive function (mean = -0.08) during the first 2 years after their husbands' deaths compared with still-married women (mean = 0.09). Our findings do not support the notion that the risk of dementia is increased following the loss of a spouse, yet women demonstrate a seemingly temporary decline in executive function following the death of a partner.

SUBMITTER: Vidarsdottir H 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3939848 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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