Marital stress has been identified as a significant factor influencing the cognitive health of older adults, with emerging evidence suggesting a potential link between marital discord and the risk of developing dementia. This study will review the existing literature on the relationship between chronic stress, depression, marital discord, and the development of cognitive impairment which can increase the risk of developing dementia in older adults. However, the purpose of studying how marital stress affects the onset of dementia is to deepen our understanding of the complex interplay between psychosocial factors and cognitive health in older adults, with the ultimate goal of improving prevention, intervention, and support strategies.

Numerous studies have highlighted the adverse effects of chronic marital stress on cognitive function, neurobiological processes, and brain health. Marital conflicts, lack of social support, and emotional distress within spousal relationships have been associated with increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can contribute to neuroinflammation and neuronal damage over time.

Moreover, there is a higher chance of cognitive decline and dementia among individuals experiencing long-term marital dissatisfaction or conflict. Mechanisms underlying this association include depression, impaired cardiovascular health, disrupted sleep patterns, and heightened psychological distress, all of which have been implicated in the pathogenesis of dementia.

Furthermore, the impact of marital stress on dementia risk extends beyond psychological factors, encompassing physiological changes, lifestyle behaviors, social engagement, and access to healthcare. Older adults experiencing persistent marital strain may be less likely to engage in protective health behaviors, such as regular exercise, healthy diet maintenance, and seeking 8 timely medical interventions, thereby amplifying their vulnerability to cognitive impairment and dementia.

However, there are a number of well-establish risk factors for developing dementia such as age, family history and genetics, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, head injuries, poor lifestyle, low levels of education, sleep disorders, and exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants. Another of these risk factors is depression, which often results in experiencing stressful life events and it is one significant stressor for many individuals suffering from marital stress. There is very little empirical research on the association between marital stress and the development of dementia hence, future research is needed to study on the impact of marital stress on dementia risk in older adults and understand that long-term marital stress can severely impact cognitive functions.

Conclusion: Further research, including longitudinal studies and neurobiological investigations, are needed to elucidate the complex interplay between marital stress, neurobiological processes, and dementia risk, leading to a better understanding of preventive strategies and targeted interventions.


Jeffrey Buchanan

Committee Member

Aaron Hoy

Committee Member

David Beimers

Committee Member

Eric Sprankle

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)

Program of Study

Aging Studies


Humanities and Social Sciences

Included in

Gerontology Commons



Rights Statement

In Copyright