Therapy People with impairments have traditionally relied on animals as friends. Animals of all kinds are now proven to be beneficial to those suffering from a variety of mental health issues, including depression and dementia. According to a preliminary study published, owning a pet, such as a dog or cat, for five years or more may be associated with slower cognitive deterioration in older persons.
“Previous research has suggested that the human-animal link may have health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and stress,” study author Tiffany Braley, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said. “Our findings show that having a pet may also protect against cognitive deterioration.”
The study examined cognitive data from 1,369 older persons with an average age of 65 and normal cognitive abilities at the start of the trial. A total of 53% owned pets, with 32% being long-term pet owners (those who had pets for five years or more). 88 percent of research participants were white, 7% were black, 2% were Hispanic, and 3% were of another ethnicity or race.
Previous research has suggested that the human-animal link may have health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and stress. Our findings show that having a pet may also protect against cognitive deterioration.Tiffany Braley
The Health and Retirement Study, a significant study of Medicare beneficiaries, was used by the researchers. People in that study were subjected to a battery of cognitive tests. The cognitive tests were utilized by the researchers to create a composite cognitive score for each subject ranging from zero to 27. The composite score incorporated ordinary subtraction, numeric counting, and word recall exams. The researchers next evaluated the relationships between years of pet ownership and cognitive function using the subjects’ composite cognitive scores.
Cognitive scores dropped at a slower rate in pet owners throughout a six-year period. This distinction was most pronounced among long-term pet owners. Taking other factors known to affect cognitive function into account, the study found that long-term pet owners had a cognitive composite score that was 1.2 points higher at six years than non-pet owners. The researchers also discovered that the cognitive benefits of having a pet for a longer period of time were greater for Black adults, college-educated individuals, and men. More research, according to Braley, is needed to investigate the possible causes of these correlations.
Practicing good pet care, in addition to hand cleaning, can help prevent the spread of germs between pets and people. Keep pets and their supplies out of the kitchen and, if feasible, sanitize pet habitats and supplies outside the house. Never clean items in the kitchen sink, food processing areas, or bathroom sink. Pets can contaminate surfaces in your home with germs, and you don’t even have to touch them to get sick from their germs.
Children can learn compassion and responsibility from pets. Children under the age of 5 should be monitored when engaging with animals to guarantee the safety of both the youngster and the pet. Teach youngsters to wash their hands immediately after playing with animals or coming into contact with anything in the animal’s environment (cages, beds, food or water dishes). Allow children to kiss dogs or put their hands or other objects in their mouths after they have handled animals.
“Because stress can impair cognitive performance, the possible stress-relieving effects of pet ownership could give a credible explanation for our findings,” said Braley. “A companion animal can also improve physical activity, which may benefit cognitive health. However, more research is needed to confirm our findings and determine the underlying processes for this connection.”
“We know that physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, is really good for maintaining brain function, even in people who are at risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD),” explains neuropsychologist Aaron Bonner-Jackson, PhD. “You can make a significant impact in terms of how your body functions and, as a result, how your brain functions.”
A limitation of the study was that length of pet ownership was assessed only at one time point, so information regarding ongoing pet ownership was unavailable.