Men who marry smart women live longer - but not for the reason you think

Men who marry smart women live longer - but not for the reason you think
Picture: kzenon/istock

Lawrence Whalley, Professor emeritus of mental health at Aberdeen spoke at the Oxford Literature festival in April. He shared a platform with author and fellow professor Margaret Rayman, where they spoke at length about the causes of and prevention for the onset of dementia.

Professor Whalley argued that a combination of the correct diet and an intellectually stimulating environment act as a bulwark against the disease.

He made the following comment, which has since been cited by several news organisations as the basis for a theory which argues men marrying intelligent women decrease their chance of dementia:

The thing a boy needs to do if he wants to live a longer life is marry an intelligent woman. There is no better buffer (to dementia) than intelligence.

So is it true?

indy100 caught up with Professor Whalley for clarification.

In the context of reinforcing Margaret's message about diet, I raised the responsibilities of wives to follow her recommendations. A journalist in the audience picked up a single point but neglected the central issue: food choices influence dementia risk.

So it's got nothing to do with a woman's intelligence in relation to her husband?

Foodstuff choices are influenced by general mental ability. These choices are exerted through multiple pathways including education, income and purchases of items (eg alcohol) in preference to nutrient-rich foods.

People of similar mental ability are more likely to marry. Wives make many food purchase decisions and are powerful influences on family dietary habits.

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