Recent research from the University of Maryland suggests that structured interaction with dogs could help people with dementia preserve and even increase their mental health. The study, presented in July, 2013 at the conference of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO), followed 40 elderly adults with dementia who resided at assisted-living facilities, and found that depression dropped for those residents who interacted regularly with the visiting dog as part of a pet-assisted living program. Researchers also noticed improved physical function in the participants. The residents interacted with the dogs twice a week for three months.
Pet ownership can also have social benefits, according to new findings by researchers at the University of Western Australia, also presented at the IAHAIO meeting. A random telephone survey of more than 2,500 adults in Australia and the United States indicated that pet owners are more likely to get to know new people and make friends, with dog walking cited as one of the top five ways to meet others. The study also found that people who walked with their dogs were physically active more often than people who didn’t own a dog.
So, it goes to show that pets may not only make you happier, they make make you healthier, help you find friends, and may even be a way to meet your future spouse!