Spousal Cognitive Status and Risk for Declining Cognitive Function and Dementia: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Mark W Lee, Ryan T. Demmer, Anna Kucharska-Newton, Beverly Gwen Windham, Priya Palta, Tetyana Shippee, Pamela L. Lutsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: We investigated the relationship between the cognitive status of participants’ spouses and participants’ own cognitive outcomes, controlling for mid-life factors. Methods: Participants (n = 1845; baseline age 66–90 years) from the prospective Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study were followed from 2011 to 2019. We used linear regression and Cox proportional hazard models to estimate whether spouses of people with MCI/dementia had lower cognitive functioning and elevated risk of incident dementia. Results: Having a spouse with MCI/dementia was associated with a deficit in cognitive function (b = −0.09 standard deviations; 95% CI = −0.18, 0.00). Adjustment for mid-life risk factors attenuated this association (b = −0.02 standard deviations; 95% CI = −0.10, 0.06). We observed no significant relationship between spousal MCI/dementia status and incident dementia (hazard ratio = 0.97; 95% CI = 0.69, 1.38). Discussion: Spousal cognitive status is not associated with poor cognitive outcomes independent of mid-life factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-698
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of aging and health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute contracts (HHSN268201700001I,HHSN268201700002I,HHSN268201700003I,HHSN268201700004I, HHSN268201700005I). Neurocognitive data is collected by U01 (2U01 HL096812, 2U01 HL096814, 2U01 HL096899, 2U01 HL096902, 2U01 HL096917) from the National Institutes of Health (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute on Aging; and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), and with previous brain MRI examinations funded by R01 HL70825 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • caregiving
  • cognitive decline
  • dementia
  • prospective cohort
  • spouse

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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