"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Pet ownership can offset cognitive decline in older people

December 27, 2023 – Owning a pet can slow the technique of cognitive decline in older individuals who live alone, in response to a brand new study.

The results were published Tuesday in JAMA network opened. Researchers examined health and pet ownership information from a database of seven,945 people living within the UK between 2010 and 2019. All people within the study were a minimum of 50 years old, and the common age of participants was 66 years.

Cognitive decline refers to memory and considering problems that occur naturally as we age. An estimate 10 to 20% of those over 65 years old There could also be a more advanced type of decline called mild cognitive impairment, which could also be a precursor to dementia.

This latest study examined the consequences of living with a pet. The authors noted that an increasing number of older persons are living alone, which is related to an increased risk of dementia.

To test a cognitive function called verbal memory, study participants were asked to recollect ten unrelated words. And to check a feature called verbal fluency, participants were asked to call as many animals as possible inside a minute. The researchers compared changes in test performance over time and in addition compared performance based on whether people lived alone, with other people, or with other people and pets.

People who lived alone with pets experienced slower rates of cognitive decline in comparison with individuals who lived completely alone, in response to these test results. However, there have been no differences between individuals who lived alone with pets and other people who lived with others. There were also no differences between pet owners who also lived with other people in comparison with pet owners who lived alone.

The authors noted that their study was limited because they were unable to evaluate additional cognitive domains equivalent to executive function, reasoning and a spotlight. Additionally, the information they used only asked about pet ownership at a single cut-off date, not frequently throughout the nine-year period over which they analyzed health data. The study design also meant that aspects apart from pet ownership could have influenced people's cognitive health.