Dog Ownership Can Cut Dementia Risk By 40% In Older People

People with dogs tend to get into the habit of physical activity and forming social connections, which reduces their dementia risk.

Asian Scientist Magazine (Jan. 26, 2024) — Adding to the list of benefits of having a canine companion, a new study from Japan has found that having a dog can lower the risk of dementia in older adults. The study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, found that dog owners over the age of 65 are 40 percent less likely to develop dementia.

“Having a dog effectively requires people to get into the habit of physical activity and that makes it much more likely that they will then have interactions and socialize with other people,” Yu Taniguchi, the lead author of the study, told The Telegraph. Taniguchi is a researcher at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba.

The researchers claim that this is the first study to establish a clear link between dog ownership and a lowered risk of dementia.

People with dementia experience deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

Currently more than 55 million people have dementia worldwide, over 60% of whom live in low-and middle-income countries. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases, and the number of people living with dementia is set to increase from an estimated 57 million in 2019 to 153 million by 2050, according to a Lancet report.

The research was conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Geriatrics and Gerontology over a span of four years. During this period, they monitored 11,194 Japanese residents between the ages of 65 to 84, comprising approximately 10 percent of the older population of Ota City, Tokyo. The average age of the participants was 74.2 years and 51.5 percent were women.

The researchers took into consideration a range of factors, including gender, marital status, education, income, employment, history of chronic diseases, sleep duration, smoking status, and exercise habits. They compared the brain health of participants, categorizing them into current dog owners, previous owners, and those who never owned a dog.

The study also examined links between pet cats and the onset of dementia, but it was found that cat ownership was not effective for preventing dementia. This is because cat owners typically don’t take their cats for walks, thereby reducing social interactions and physical activities.

“Dog walking has also been implicated as a means to increase opportunities for social interaction and improve psychological health for older adults, suggesting that dog walking may contribute to social participation,” the researchers wrote.

Regardless of dog ownership, engaging in regular exercise and social interaction can decrease the likelihood of developing dementia. Lack of physical activity and limited social engagement were linked to increased rates of cognitive decline.

Dog owners also reported better well-being than those without pets during the coronavirus pandemic. Previous studies by Taniguchi and colleagues have revealed that older adults who had owned a dog or a cat or both had lower risk of frailty.

Source: National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba ; Image: TonyV3112 /

The paper can be found at: Protective effects of dog ownership against the onset of disabling dementia in older community-dwelling Japanese: A longitudinal study

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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