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

Hui Liu, Zhenmei Zhang, Seung Won Choi, Kenneth M. Langa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objectives: We provide one of the first population-based studies of variation in dementia by marital status in the United States. Method: We analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (2000-2014). The sample included 15,379 respondents (6,650 men and 8,729 women) aged 52 years and older 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. Results: 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. Discussion: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1795
Number of pages13
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cohabitation
  • Divorce
  • Gender
  • Marriage
  • Never marrying
  • Widowhood


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