Getting older is no picnic. Fortunately, choosing the right mate can help you enjoy your golden years.
This seems obvious, but a happy marriage does more than just provide companionship for a lifetime. It turns out there are health benefits associated not only with having a spouse to grow old with, but with choosing the right partner.
And the science says that the right partner for a man is a smart woman.
Intelligence and Alzheimer’s Prevention
Professor Lawrence Whalley, who researches and teaches mental health at the College of Medicine and Life Sciences at the University of Aberdeen says that when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s disease, “There is no better buffer than intelligence.”
In a 2016 talk called “Dementia: How Can We Protect Ourselves?”, Whalley listed several activities that researchers believe help keep the brain active and stave off dementia, including reading, exploring museums and solving puzzles. But it’s his comments on relationships that made the biggest splash with the news media.
“The thing a boy is never told he needs to do if he wants to live a longer life – but what he should do – is marry an intelligent woman. There is no better buffer (to dementia) than intelligence.”
Whalley is referring to specific research conducted at the University of Aberdeen involving twins and dementia. Here scientists studied twins who were separated at birth to investigate whether genetics or environment was more to blame for developing dementia in old age.
The idea is that because identical twins share the same DNA, their genetic tendencies toward Alzheimer’s would be equal.
However, since they were separated at birth, their environments were entirely different, allowing researchers to see what aspects influenced the development of the disease.
One of the biggest factors that kept a twin from developing dementia was intelligence.
Whether it was his own natural brain power or the effect of a lifetime of being intellectually stimulated by a brilliant wife, men who had the intelligence buffer were far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia in old age.
Healthy Relationships, Healthy Life
Of course, marrying someone solely based on their intelligence isn’t necessarily going to lead to a long, happy relationship.
Compatibility is important, as is the ability to handle challenges together and commit to a relationship for the long haul.
Still, Professor Whalley’s comments provide food for thought in a digital age where profile photos are everything. Making snap judgements based on physical traits may not be the best filter when it comes to choosing someone to go out with.
Likewise, marrying an intelligent wife or husband isn’t the only thing that will help stave off dementia. Whalley lists many other factors, including the following:
- higher education
- regular intellectual stimulation
- high-powered jobs
- financial security
- father’s job status during childhood
- mother’s diet during pregnancy
- childhood IQ scores
- learning a new language
- career changes in mid-life
It would seem that the more of the items on this list that you can check off, the better your mental health will be later in life. In particular, there are many ways to achieve regular intellectual stimulation.
For example, solving puzzles is a common recommendation, but learning a new skill, traveling or even finding your way home from a new place without Google maps can provide challenging novelty.
Having an intelligent spouse makes it easier to get that daily dose of stimulation, since you have a built-in support system for great conversation and a willing partner to visit the symphony, art gallery or book club with.
Does having a smart spouse mean that you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease? Not exactly. But it looks like it can definitely help.
This is a great reason to keep intelligence at the top of the list of traits you’re looking for in a partner. After all, if you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll want someone you can talk to for years, not just someone who looks good on their dating profile.