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Love, Marriage, and Alzheimer’s disease

By December 7, 2017Commentary

by Joshua Grill, PhD

Numerous studies have shown links between lifestyle factors and risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. A new assessment of available studies by investigators at University College in London examines one lifestyle factor, marriage, and finds that people with a spouse may be at decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In contrast, widows and people who have been single their whole lives may be at 20-40% increased risk.

At UCI MIND, a variety of studies have explored the implications of spousal status on Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials. In particular, we’ve shown that people with Alzheimer’s who lack a spouse are drastically underrepresented in clinical trials. The requirement of a study partner, a role most often filled by a spouse, is a barrier to enrollment in these clinical trials, but also in clinical trials that test potential preventative therapies in people with no symptoms of cognitive impairment. In a recent article with my colleague Dr. Jason Karlawish at the University of Pennsylvania, I argue that the requirement of a study partner should be continued in these clinical trials for reasons of safety, data integrity, and to ensure the scientific and clinical value of the research.  Click here to read the manuscript.