March 2, 2024

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Owning Dogs Can Reduce the Risk of Senile Dementia in the Elderly by 40%

New Study Finds Owning Dogs Can Reduce the Risk of Senile Dementia in the Elderly by 40%



New Study Finds Owning Dogs Can Reduce the Risk of Senile Dementia in the Elderly by 40%

A comprehensive study led by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, published in the December 2023 issue of the “National Library of Medicine,” reveals a noteworthy connection between pet ownership and the risk of dementia in the elderly.

The study involved over 11,000 individuals aged between 65 and 84, constituting approximately 10% of the elderly population in Ota City, Tokyo, Japan. Researchers explored the correlation between pet ownership, particularly of cats and dogs, and weekly exercise habits, including activities such as walking, running, yoga, swimming, and cycling. Spanning four years, the study analyzed incidents of disabling dementia among participants using data from the Long-Term Care Insurance system.

New Study Finds Owning Dogs Can Reduce the Risk of Senile Dementia in the Elderly by 40%

The findings indicate that owning dogs played a significant role in reducing the occurrence of severe dementia over the approximately four-year follow-up period, even after accounting for various background factors. Notably, individuals who owned dogs and engaged in regular physical exercise while avoiding social isolation experienced a significantly lower risk of severe dementia. This effect remained pronounced even under restrictive conditions, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that caring for dogs may contribute to maintaining physical activity, including regular exercise, and fostering social engagement.

In summary, the study found:

– Owning dogs can reduce the likelihood of severe disabling dementia.
– Dog owners who exercise regularly and engage in social activities significantly lower their risk of dementia.
– In contrast, the impact of owning cats on preventing dementia is less evident, with dog owners having a calculated odds ratio risk of 0.6 compared to 0.98 for cat owners.
– The results suggest that, compared to those without pets or those owning cats, dog owners have a lower risk of dementia, a finding of particular interest in dementia research.

The study, employing odds ratio analysis, revealed a risk reduction of 40% for current dog owners in developing disabling dementia compared to those who had never owned dogs or had done so in the past (odds ratio of 0.60, 95% confidence interval 0.37-0.977). In contrast, cat owners exhibited a odds ratio of 0.98 (95% confidence interval 0.62-1.55), indicating a marginal difference in dementia risk. Current dog owners who exercised regularly also experienced a substantial 63% reduction in the odds of developing disabling dementia compared to those with no exercise habits (odds ratio 0.37, 95% confidence interval 0.20-0.68).

Dr. Taniguchi, the primary author of the study, emphasized the significant benefits of owning dogs in reducing the risk of disabling dementia.

The study suggests that, beyond the reduction in dementia risk, owning dogs encourages sustained physical exercise and cultivates a habit of regular exercise, contributing to social engagement and a healthy lifestyle.

In conclusion, the study highlights that dog owners who exercise regularly and maintain social connections have the lowest risk of severe dementia. However, the research team emphasizes that simply owning a dog may not be sufficient to counteract dementia if the owner leads a sedentary lifestyle with limited social interaction. They stress the importance of dog owners actively participating in daily activities related to caring for dogs, such as exercise and social interactions, to observe the positive effects in preventing dementia.

The study also underscores cultural considerations, noting that the ratio of cat and dog ownership in Japan is lower than in Western countries like the United States. This raises an interesting question for future research: whether the patterns observed in Japan are applicable to Western countries and other nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that dementia is a significant global health issue, with approximately 50 million dementia patients worldwide and nearly 10 million new diagnoses each year. The high global prevalence underscores the importance of understanding all potential factors, including pet ownership and lifestyle choices such as physical exercise, that contribute to preventing dementia.

New Study Finds Owning Dogs Can Reduce the Risk of Senile Dementia in the Elderly by 40%

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