Pets have been with us for centuries. What can we draw from them?
Dog owners often say that pets are their friends. As it turns out Indeed, having pets can have some mental health benefits. This is according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Previously, researchers had established that the bond between humans and animals can have a positive impact on our health. The benefits included lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. But that is not everything.
– Our results suggest that: having pets may also protect against cognitive decline — explains the study’s author, Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center.
For research purposes, scientists collected data from 1,369 adults with a mean age of 65† Each of the subjects studied had cognitive abilities at the appropriate, physiological level. The analysis showed that 53 percent. of study participants had pets, and 32 percent. of the whole group have had pets for a long time. This was followed by cognitive tests on basic math and language skills. The respondents were rated on a scale from 0 to 27.
In the next six years test results deteriorated much faster in people who did not have pets† The study found that long-time pet owners had an average of 1.2 points higher in cognitive scores than other participants after six years.
Since stress can negatively affect cognition, the potential stress-buffering effect of having pets could make our finding plausible. A companion animal can also increase physical activitywhich may benefit cognitive health, adds Dr. Braley to it. Further research will be needed to confirm the results and identify the mechanisms underlying this relationship.
The researchers noted that pet ownership was found to be most beneficial for higher-educated adult black men. Why do some groups benefit more from pet ownership than others? This is another question that scientists continue to consider. Their conclusions will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
In their work, scientists study not only rare, exotic animal species, but also animals that have been with us every day for many years. Dogs for example. We already know that pets understand an average of 89 words. Usually these are popular commands such as “sit”, “come”, or “down”.
Other interesting studies concern the influence of music on the mood and behavior of animals† In July 1921, residents of the New York menagerie (today’s Central Park Zoo) listened to various jazz pieces. According to the observations of researchers of the time, the polar bear “showed surprise” and the small tame wolf “ran away in panic.” The elephant, however, seemed completely unfazed.
Emily Doolitle, zoom scientist and composer, explains that some animals like not only to listen to music, but also to make sounds of their own. Birds chirping in the morning, for example, experience a surge of dopamine at the same time.
What about emotions in animals? Just because four-legged friends don’t show all their emotions, doesn’t mean they don’t feel them. Their heart rate is crucial. In dogs, the heart rate increases in fights or other aggressive situations. In turn, it calms down during friendly interactions, including during mutual temptation.
Even if pets are good for our mental health, they cannot be considered a cure. In case of mental crises or prolonged depression, we should contact a doctor or psychologist.