Owning a pet is associated with slower verbal memory decline in people over the age of 50 who live alone. Apparently, pets can prevent the negative effects of living alone on cognitive function.
A new study by experts at Sun Yat-sen University in China examined whether pets have an impact on cognitive function and whether they influence the connection between living alone and cognitive decline. The results are published in the specialist journal “JAMA Network Open”.
Almost 8,000 participants were examined
The study included data from a total of 7,945 participants aged at least 50 years from the so-called English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The average age of the participants was 66.3 years and 56 percent were women.
The team analyzed this data to find out what impact participants’ ownership of a pet had on cognitive decline.
Positive effects of pets
Owning a pet was associated with a slower decline in composite verbal cognition, verbal memory and verbal fluency, the team reports.
In addition, so-called interaction tests have shown that living alone is a significant negative modifier for all three areas of cognition.
Benefits only for people living alone
In stratified analyses, it also became clear that owning a pet was associated with a slower deterioration in composite verbal cognition, verbal memory and verbal fluency only among people living alone, the researchers report in a press release.
This did not apply to participants who lived with other people.
Pets counteract the negative effects of living alone
According to the experts, the results suggest that owning a pet offsets the connection between living alone and the decline in verbal memory and causes slower cognitive decline in older adults living alone.
Future studies must now investigate whether keeping a pet actually generally slows down the rate of cognitive decline in older people who live alone. (as)