There are many advantages to having a pet. Recently, researchers have discovered that it is also good for the brains of elderly and lonely people. The study covered almost eight thousand people. What exactly are the conclusions from it?
Having a pet can be good for both our mental and physical health. Walking with a dog or playing with a cat encourages regular physical activity. Additionally, interaction with an animal can reduce the level of cortisol (stress hormone), but also prevents the feeling of loneliness, which in turn has a positive impact on our mental condition. The latest research shows that having such a pet is associated with a slower loss of cognitive abilities. However, this applies to a specific group of people.
How does having a pet affect cognitive abilities?
Owning a pet is associated with reducing the feeling of loneliness, which is a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline. The latest analysis shows that single people who are at least 50 years old and have a pet at home lose their cognitive abilities at a slower rate. The study found that this applies to verbal memory as well as speech.
Researchers from the University of Sun Yat-sen in China analyzed the impact of having a pet on the cognitive abilities of older people. The study involved 7,945 volunteers over 55 years of age (average age was 66). Scientists calculated the so-called verbal intelligence (based on verbal memory and speech fluency). It turned out that having a pet at home had a positive impact on cognitive abilities, but this only concerned single people (for other people, having a pet had no significance).
“In our prospective cohort study of older adults living alone, pet ownership was associated with slower decline in verbal memory, speech fluency, and verbal intelligence. However, this did not apply to participants living with someone,” the researchers explain. A publication on this topic was published in the journal “JAMA Network Open”. However, according to researchers, it is still unclear to what extent having a pet alleviates the decline in cognitive functions. For this purpose, further research is necessary.
What other health benefits are there of having a pet?
Additionally, if we are dog owners, this may have an even greater impact on the condition of our body. Having a dog has a positive effect on your health, especially your heart. The study was conducted by a team from the University Hospital of Saint Anna in Brno proves that the lifestyle of such people contributes to this. This is due to the fact that they spend more time on physical activity.
“People who go for a walk with their dog fall into the so-called moderate physical activity. Therefore, the company of a pet means not only less anxiety and stress, better sleep, but also improved fitness, immunity and circulation,” explained Marta Fijałkowska, MD, cardiologist of the American Heart of Poland Group, citing a study conducted by a team from the University Hospital them. Saint Anna in Brno. Another interesting fact is that sleeping in the same bed with a dog is good for us (and even better than sharing a bed with a human).