Pets give a big boost to the mental health of single seniors.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27, 2023 (HealthDay News) — For a growing number of American seniors living alone, having a beloved dog or cat can help keep their minds healthy.

A new study of more than 7,900 people with an average age of 66 found that people who lived alone were able to prevent memory and thinking losses if they had a pet.

However, pet ownership did not affect the perceptions of older people who lived with others.

Loneliness — or the lack thereof — may be key here.

Owning a cat or dog “is associated with a reduction in loneliness, which is a significant risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline,” wrote a team led by Ciyong Lu, of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. They published their findings on December 26 in the journal JAMA Network Open..

The researchers noted that people are living alone as they age — 2021 data found that 28.5 percent of all Americans lived in single-person households.

Several studies have found that “elderly individuals living alone are at increased risk of developing dementia,” Lowe’s group noted.

Can life with a four-legged friend reduce this risk?

The new research was based on data collected on thousands of Britons aged 50 and over whose lifestyle and mental acuity were tracked between 2010 and 2019. Just over half (56%) were women.

The team assessed what’s called “verbal memory” — people’s ability to recall what was said to them (for example, repeating a story), verbal fluency and verbal comprehension, or mental processes that I include the use of language.

According to the researchers, the study found that “pet ownership was associated with slower verbal memory and verbal fluency among individuals living alone, but not among those living with others.”

In fact, having a pet appears to “completely offset” any mental decline that was associated with growing up alone.

More research is needed, Lowe’s group said, but pet ownership represents “a simple change” that “could play a role in developing public health policies to reduce cognitive decline in older adults living alone.” can do.”

More information

Learn more about the links between loneliness and cognitive decline at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: JAMA Network Open.26 December 2023

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