Owning Pets in the Long Term May Help Slow Memory Loss and Boost Cognitive Function, New Study Suggests

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We know owning a pet can boost your brainpower, but doing so also may help protect owners from memory loss and help boost cognitive function later in life, a new study suggests.

When researchers at the University of Michigan Medical Center studied more than 1,300 people who were 65 years old on average over a six-year period, they discovered that pet owners, particularly those who have a pet for five years or longer, scored higher on average than those without pets, People reported.

The groups looked at for the Health and Retirement Study that benefited the most were men, college-educated people, and Black people, the news outlet reported. 

“Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress,” Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor and the lead author of the study told SWNS.

“Our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline,” she said.

Of the people included in the study, 53% were pet owners and 32% were long-term pet owners. Of the participants, 88% were white, 7% Black, 2% Hispanic and 3% were of another ethnicity or race.

In one portion of the study, participants had to recall a list of 10 words immediately after hearing them. They had to repeat the words again after five minutes. They also had to count backward from 20, and then from 100 by subtracting seven from each number.

The study’s authors did note that people with better thinking skills may be more likely to have pets, as they can deal with the daily demands that having a pet requires.

The findings of this study have not yet been published and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in April.