(ORDO NEWS) — Pet owners — especially if they adopted a pet at least five years ago — showed slower cognitive decline.
Scientists from the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor and the University of Florida (USA) decided to investigate the relationship between the presence of pets and the level of cognitive functions in their elderly owners.
The results are reported in a press release on the American Academy of Neurology website; they will also be presented at the 74th annual meeting of the organization in April.
The fact that having a pet has a positive effect on human health and well-being has been repeatedly confirmed: in particular, as the authors of some previous scientific papers have shown, pet owners are less at risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and their children’s emotional state and social skills are much better.
Than their peers growing up in families without pets. In addition, cats, for example, can help increase empathy and reduce anxiety in autistic children.
This time, American researchers studied data from 1,369 elderly US residents (average age 65): 53% of them had pets (cat or dog) at home, and 32% had been their owners for at least five years. Information was taken from the long-term Health and Retirement Study from the Survey Research Center (SRC) at the Institute for Social Research.
Participants had to take several tests – for subtraction, counting down and memorization of words – at the end of which they received a score for each person’s cognitive functions, from zero to 27.
Based on these scores, they then assessed the relationship between the level of mental abilities of a person and the presence of a house at home. pet. The data was collected from 2010 to 2016, people with cognitive impairment were excluded from the analysis.
According to the scientists, initially, pet owners experienced less hypertension (44.0% vs. 49.2%), had a higher socioeconomic status, but they were more prone to depression (23.8% vs. 14.0%) – according to compared to those who did not have pets.
However, over the six-year period of the study, the assessment of cognitive functions that decline with aging was higher in people who kept animals at home.
The difference was particularly noticeable for long-term adopters, who, on average after six years, had 1.2 higher cognitive ability scores than those who had no pets. Such benefits from having a pet home were especially noted among men, blacks, and college graduates.
Of course, more research is needed to understand the reasons for the link and confirm it. “Because stress can negatively impact cognition, the potential effects of stress buffering from pet ownership may explain our findings.
In addition, a companion animal helps increase physical activity, which also benefits cognitive health, ”concluded author and MD Tiffany Brailey.
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