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There is already a lot of data to suggest that living with a dog improves both mental and physical health. The current global pandemic has shifted the spotlight to whether pets improve the welfare of older adults, who are now more socially isolated than ever before. Unfortunately, there is a long history of studies to suggest that social isolation is associated with various adverse psychological and health outcomes later in life, such as: B. Cardiovascular disorders, chronic pain, loneliness and depression. A number of writers, particularly in the popular press, have suggested that pet ownership is one way to mitigate the negative effects of social isolation. However, when you scan the media, every pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, hamster, bird, or even fish, tends to satisfy the need for companionship, thereby helping to offset the deterioration in mental health. However, there has been some evidence that dogs might be the most psychologically beneficial to animals.
A team of Japanese researchers, led by Tomoko Ikeuchi of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology’s Human Care Research Team, decided to examine the real effects of pet ownership on the mental health of socially isolated and non-isolated seniors. In doing so, they decided to determine the real benefits for the seniors who owned one of the two most popular pets, a dog versus a cat. This was a large study of 9,856 seniors aged 65 to 84 years. All of these people lived in the community and were not disabled, so they did not need any help caring for their pet.
The mental health of these older adults was assessed using the World Health Organization’s Five Wellbeing Index, which measures people’s levels of positive wellbeing over the past two weeks. Things include: (1) I felt happy and in a good mood, (2) I felt calm and relaxed, (3) I felt active and strong, (4) I woke up fresh and rested, and ( 5)) My daily life has been full of things that interest me. Obviously, on a survey like this one, higher scores are associated with a more positive mental state.
Participants’ social isolation was measured using another survey that included questions such as, “How often do you see or go out with your friends or neighbors?” “How often do you talk to your friends or neighbors on the phone?” “How often do you talk with your family members or relatives who do not live with you. “And” How often do you talk to your family members or relatives who do not live with you on the phone. “
The statistical analyzes involved a rather complex logistical process, but we can reduce the main results to a few important results. As expected, the mental health of socially isolated people was lower than that of non-socially isolated people. The people most susceptible to negative psychological effects were those who were socially isolated and had never owned a dog before. In comparison, dog owners were only half as likely to report negative psychological status.
The authors summarize their results as follows: “After adjusting for demographic and potential confounders related to age, gender, income level, and living conditions, socially isolated current or past dog owners had better mental health than socially isolated people who never were dog owners. It was none such difference observed between current and past cat owners. “
These results are important because it is the largest single sample measuring the benefits of pet ownership for seniors that we have had to date.
The takeaway message seems to be that at this time of the pandemic, when older adults are forced into social isolation, one is readily available and the effective treatment to prevent their mental health from deteriorating could be simply to put a dog in to introduce their home.
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