ABBA

Björn Ulvaeus health: ‘I have extremely few memories’ – ABBA star on severe memory loss

BJÖRN ULVAEUS is the Swedish singer best known as one quarter of legendary musical group ABBA. Despite being one of the best-selling music acts in the history of popular music, a few years ago Ulvaeus revealed that he cannot remember half of his achievements, due to his memory loss.

Shooting to fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1974, ABBA are still releasing more music with their first album in 40 years, Voyage, being released in November 2021. The album is accompanying a concert residency featuring the band as virtual avatars – ABBAtars – held in London from May to December this year. Looking back on his career back in 2008, Ulvaeus revealed more about his struggles with memory loss, after revealing that “it is like [he] wasn’t even there” for most of it. After divorcing fellow bandmate Agnetha Faltskog in 1980 and marrying Swedish music journalist Lena Kallersjo – who he recently separated from too – it was reported that Ulvaeus spends hours studying old photographs and video to try and piece his old life back together.

“People ask me if I am going to write my memoirs. But even if I wanted to, I would not be able. I have extremely few memories,” Ulvaeus said, shortly after the release of the film Mamma Mia!

Following the release of the film, the four members came together for the first time in 22 years, sparking rumour of a reunion.

But unable to recall his memories of his past career, the singer-songwriter struggles to tell the difference between truth and what he has been told.

Speaking about the aftermath of ABBA’s famous Eurovision win, the singer said: “Many remember that very moment, where they were, what they did and even how they felt.

Björn Ulvaeus

Björn Ulvaeus: The star can’t remember most of his career (Image: Getty)

“But not me.

“It is unbelievable but I do not remember standing on the stage. It is like I was not even there.

“In interviews I said that my trousers were so tight I could not even sit on the bus on the way to the arena.

“But I honestly do not know if that is true or if it is someone who told me about it.”

Walker Methodist – an organisation for senior living – explains that long-term memory refers to the part of our memory that stores names and anecdotes over a long period of time. It is also related to knowing how to complete everyday, functional tasks.

This differs from short-term memory as this is simply the capacity to remember recent events and facts.

Short-term memory loss means someone is having trouble recalling things they heard, saw, or learned recently. This can include forgetting where you put your keys last night, or being unable to remember someone’s name after you’ve met.

The Mayo Clinic explains that memory loss can be a fairly common part of ageing, but this sort of memory loss does not stop you from living a full and productive life.

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson

Sometimes it is possible to treat long-term memory loss as the cause is reversible. These treatable causes include stress, anxiety or depression, B-12 deficiency, medication and sleeping problems.

In some cases a continued use of drug and alcohol abuse may also cause memory loss, and generally get worse the longer the substances are used.

In other cases, long-term memory loss might be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease – a progressive condition that is irreversible.

Dementia

Dementia signs versus age-related changes (Image: Express.co.uk)

The word dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgement, language and other thinking skills.

Dementia usually begins gradually and worsens over time impairing a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.

If you or someone you know is concerned about memory loss, it is recommended to go and seek a professional medical opinion. Multiple tests will be able to determine the degree of memory impairment and diagnose the cause.

In some cases, changing medication or using therapy to help people remember certain things can be used to treat and hopefully cure long-term memory loss. But for those with dementia, medication is used to slow down the progression of symptoms and reduce the risk of further brain damage.

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