Owning a pet doesn’t prevent age-related declines in physical or mental health, a recent study found.
Pet: The Study Protocol
Some studies have suggested that pets can improve psychological health, perhaps by easing loneliness or providing companionship. Other research has suggested at health benefits such as weight regulation and improved heart health, possibly from having to walk a dog or stress relief from petting a cat.
To get a better idea of exactly how much a pet can affect human health and well-being, the researchers recruited 9,000 British seniors, average age 67 years. One-third of the group had a pet, 18 percent had a dog, 12 percent had a cat, and 3 percent had another pet.
After two years, the seniors underwent various checks of physical and mental health.
Comparing those who had pets with those who didn’t, the researchers found essentially no differences in walking speed, lung function, speed getting out of a chair, grip strength, ability to raise legs or balance. These are all abilities that tend to become harder to do with age.
They also measured three markers of inflammation in the body, and found no differences between the groups.
In addition, they found no statistically significant differences in memory or depressive symptoms between pet owners and those with no animals. The analysis took into account such things as smoking and level of wealth.