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Dog Ownership Linked to 40% Reduced Risk of Dementia

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People are generally aware of the numerous mental health benefits that come with dog ownership. These benefits include stress reduction, as well as help with anxiety and depression. However, a new study has revealed an added advantage of owning dogs. 

According to Men’s Journal, a recent study conducted in Japan discovered that — for adults aged 65 and older — owning a dog could potentially decrease the risk of dementia. Dementia is a cognitive ailment impacting over 55 million individuals globally.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Geriatrics and Gerontology. Researchers surveyed over 11,000 individuals aged 65 to 84. The survey included questions about pet ownership — specifically, if the participant had cats, dogs, or no pets. It also delved into their weekly exercise habits, encompassing activities such as walking, running, yoga, swimming, and cycling performed more than once a week. Four years later, researchers reevaluated the participants’ health status and monitored the onset of any dementia-related symptoms.

Dogs offer lower dementia risk than cats

The researchers analyzed the possibility of developing the illness using an “odds ratio” breakdown. Dog owners had a calculated risk of 0.6, while cat owners stood at 0.98 risk. In comparison, individuals without dogs or cats had a risk of 1.0. 

Participants with pet dogs tended to leave their homes more regularly, fostering greater social interactions with others. Consequently, this higher social engagement is believed to have a “suppressive effect” on dementia. Moreover, dog owners, being generally more physically active, experience reduced accumulation of brain proteins associated with dementia. Exercise also enhances cerebral blood flow, stimulates cell growth, and supports cell survival, contributing to a decreased risk of cognitive decline. 

Specifically, the study’s authors note that “dog ownership had a suppressive effect on incident disabling dementia after adjusting for background factors during an approximately four-year follow-up period.” They emphasized their findings further, sharing, that “dog owners with an exercise habit and no social isolation had a significantly lower risk of disabling dementia.”

The study also concluded that caring for a dog could play a role in sustaining physical activity. In particular, it fosters regular exercise habits and encourages social engagement, even amid COVID-19 limitations on interactions.

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