Can pets help prevent cognitive decline as we age?
Researchers explored this question using data from the United Kingdom.
For most people, cognitive abilities begin to decline with age.
But oh A new study suggests that animal companions may offer some health benefits for older adults living alone.
“Pet ownership moderates the association between living alone and declining rates of verbal memory and verbal fluency,” the researchers wrote in a study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, an international peer-reviewed journal. An open access medical journal.
The combined study observed 7,945 participants who were at least 50 years old to determine the effects of owning a pet on their health.
This suggested an association with slower rates of decline in verbal memory and fluency among those living alone with pets than those living with other people.
However, randomized clinical trials are needed to obtain more evidence, the researchers said.
“It remains unclear whether pet ownership is associated with cognitive decline and to what extent pet ownership moderates the association between loneliness and cognitive decline,” according to the study.
The research had limitations because it only assessed verbal memory and fluency. Cognitive function includes episodic memory, executive function, attention, reasoning, processing speed and accuracy. Also, the study did not look at length of pet ownership and mostly included people who were white.
Information from research was used. English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), where the same group of respondents are interviewed over several years to measure changes in their health, economic and social conditions. This latest study used ELSA data from multiple interviews conducted from June 2010 to July 2011 and from June 2018 to July 2019.
The average age of the participants was about 66 years, 44% were men and 56% were women.
Researchers say there is currently no effective treatment for cognitive decline or dementia. They note that the number of people with dementia globally will increase from 57 million in 2019 to 153 million in 2050.