Living in a Larger Household May Lower the Risk of Dying From Dementia
Living in a multigenerational household comes with many benefits: the ability to help our loved ones when they need it, being able to share the cost of bills, and having a stronger connection with our families, among other things. A new study finds that for older people, such living situations may also be protective against dementia.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide examined the link between dementia risk and a variety of factors, including GDP, urbanization, age, and household size. Their findings, published in PLOS ONE, show that people living in larger households or with their families are less apt to die from dementia than those who live alone, and such living arrangements may be able to delay the disease’s progression.
Dr. Wenpeng You, lead researcher and PhD candidate supervisor at the University of Adelaide, says, “Independent of aging, urbanization, and GDP, we found large households protect against dementia mortality. It’s a significant finding in informing how we plan care and living services for people as they age, because it shows that human factors – relationships, a sense of connection and purpose, encouragement and praise, meaningful engagement with others – are all quite important in combatting the progress of dementia.”
The team discovered this link after looking at data on people aged 60 and older in more than 180 countries. They also found that GDP and urbanization did not appear to play much of a role in dementia mortality, but age did.
Though researchers they say they didn’t find anything proving larger household size caused the lower incidence of death among their study sample, living with more people is protective against dementia mortality when it comes to the onset and progression of the disease.
Maciej Henneberg, senior author and Emeritus Professor, explains the benefit, saying, “We are one of the few species that have adapted over thousands of years to rely on extended family groupings from cooperative breeding, and then evolved alloparental care, until shaped for flourishing in small communities.
“In the stretch back across that evolution, it has really only been a very short period where we have moved away from that. We are actually not well-adapted to the contemporary trends of small families, personal space and individualism.”
Henneberg explains that in multigenerational households, older adults benefit from conversation, medication reminders, and encouragement to be active. If all this is positive, it can stimulate oxytocin production, which has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and may slow dementia development.
In light of their findings, the team says doctors should encourage their patients who don’t live in large households to seek out positive interactions with people within their communities.Whizzco