New Study Shows Owning A Pet Is Linked To Slower Cognitive Decline

March 4, 2022

Do pets have a positive effect on your brain health?

A new study shows pet ownership is linked to a slower decline in cognition over time.

pets help reduce cognitive decline elderly

According to a preliminary study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 74th Annual Meeting in April, owning a pet, especially for five years or longer, may be linked to slower cognitive decline in older adults.

"Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress," said 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. "Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline."

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.

 

Over six years, cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners. This difference was strongest among long-term pet owners.

"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. That said, more research is needed to confirm our results and identify underlying mechanisms for this association."

Previous studies have shown that owning pets lowers blood pressure, reduces chances of depression and loneliness, promotes living in the present moment, increases mobility and independence and eases anxiety and pain.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com.

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