Pets: Do They Have a Positive Effect on Your Brain Health?


Pets and brain health: A new study shows long-term pet ownership is linked to slower decline in cognition over time.

Owning a pet, like a dog or cat, especially for five years or longer, may be linked to slower cognitive decline in older adults. This is according to a study released last month.

Tiffany Braley is the study’s author, from the University of Michigan Medical Center. “Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress. Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.”

Pets: Do They Have a Positive Effect on Your Brain Health?

The study looked at cognitive data from 1,369 older adults with an average age of 65 who had normal cognitive skills at the start of the study. A total of 53% owned pets, and 32% were long-term pet owners, defined as those who owned pets for five years or more.

Pets Affect Brain Function

Over six years, cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners. This difference was strongest among long-term pet owners. Taking into account other factors known to affect cognitive function, the study showed that long-term pet owners, on average, had a cognitive composite score that was 1.2 points higher at six years compared to non-pet owners.

Pets: Do They Have a Positive Effect on Your Brain Health?

The researchers also found that the cognitive benefits associated with longer pet ownership were stronger for black adults, college-educated adults, and men. Braley says more research is needed to further explore the possible reasons for these associations.

“As stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could provide a plausible reason for our findings,” said Braley. “A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health.”

And who doesn’t want brain health? Time to get a furry friend!

Like stories about pets? Then check out this story about how dogs can sniff out cancer!

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