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% own pets and 32% are long-term pet owners, defined as people who have owned pets for 5 years or more.
Of the study participants, 88% were white, 7% were black, 2% were Hispanic, and 3% were of another ethnicity or race.
The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a large study of Medicare beneficiaries. In that study, people were given multiple cognitive tests.
The researchers used those cognitive tests to develop a composite cognitive score for each person, ranging from 0 to 27. The composite score includes the usual tests of subtraction, counting, and memory. are from.
The researchers then used the participants’ composite cognitive scores and estimated the association between years of pet ownership and cognitive function.
Over six years, cognitive scores declined at a slower rate among pet owners. This difference is strongest among longtime pet owners.
Taking into account other factors known to affect cognitive function, the study found that long-term pet owners averaged 1.2 points higher in cognitive composite scores after 6 years than non-permanent pet owners. do not keep pets.
The researchers also found that the perceived benefits associated with longer pet ownership were for blacks, college-educated adults, and men. More research is needed to further explore the possible reasons for these associations.
One limitation of the study was that pet ownership duration was only assessed at a single point in time, so information on ongoing pet ownership was not available.