man holding a bunny

Pet Ownership May Be Good for Your Overall Brain Health

By Christine Macahilig
April 11, 2023

Our pets can be a great source of comfort and joy in our lives. They can help reduce stress and, particularly for women, help us feel less lonely, which might be one reason why pet adoptions increased during the pandemic. Now, research suggests there may be another benefit of being a pet owner, especially in the long term—better brain health.

In a preliminary study by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical Center and the University of Florida, and reported by the American Academy of Neurology, researchers followed 1,369 older adults (age 65 and older) with normal cognitive skills. A total of 53% of participants owned a pet while another 32% were long-term pet owners, defined as people who have owned a pet for five or more years. Study participants were then tested to evaluate their cognitive functioning over the course of six years.

In that time, the cognitive scores of pet owners decreased more slowly than people without pets, with the difference particularly strongest among long-term pet owners. And the research suggests that the brain-boosting benefits were stronger among Black adults, college-educated adults, and men. The researchers say more study is needed to understand the reasons why these groups saw the most benefit.

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