Worsening Dementia Related Behavioural Symptoms Increase Divorce Risk Among Elderly, Study Shows

In Education

Elderly individuals displaying pronounced behavioral manifestations such as restlessness, hostility, and limited self-control are at an elevated risk of experiencing a marital separation compared to those exhibiting less severe symptoms, as indicated by a recent study.

Dementia contributing to increased divorces among elderly

As dementia progresses, the likelihood of divorce seems to decrease. Research conducted by a group at the Yale School of Public Health indicates that although specific behavioral alterations can create tension in marriages among older individuals, more substantial cognitive decline or severe dementia appears to lower the probability of couples going through separation.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable uptick in divorces among elderly individuals. Dementia, a condition that impacts memory and cognitive abilities, frequently brings about difficulties in married relationships, including the burdens of providing care, emotional disconnection, and financial strain.

Yale researchers conducted a study using data from 37 National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRCs) in the US. They analyzed 263 couples who had experienced divorce or separation while participating in the ADRCs, and also studied 1,238 couples of similar age who remained together for comparison.

High levels of behavioural symptoms increase risk of separation

Researchers found that the progression of dementia, as measured by a clinical dementia rating scale, was associated with a reduced likelihood of divorce or separation in couples. Conversely, higher levels of behavioral symptoms, assessed by Neuro Psychiatric Inventory (NPI) scores, were linked to an increased risk of divorce or separation. In summary, as behavioral symptoms worsened, the risk of marital breakdown grew, but couples in advanced stages of dementia were the least likely to separate.

Researchers suggest that addressing behavioral symptoms in elderly individuals could have positive effects not only on the individuals themselves but also on their partners and families. The study’s authors recommend providing additional relationship support, especially for couples where one partner is in the early stages of dementia.

This research indicates that neuropsychiatric behavioral symptoms like depression/dysphoria, disinhibition, agitation/aggression, and elation/euphoria are associated with an increased risk of divorce or separation among older adult couples.

Mobile Sliding Menu