As people get older, there is a risk of a decline in mental health. Dr. Genieve Zhe Hui Gan and her team of researchers set out to explore the relationship between pet ownership in older adults and its influence on mental health.[1] The results of this study were published in the journal of Aging and Mental Health.

Findings suggest that pet ownership may benefit older adults by providing a sense of purpose, companionship, reduced loneliness, and increased socialization. Benefits include increased resilience against mental health disorders, which could positively influence mental health outcomes.

A separate study set out to discover if pet owners and those without pets differed in depressive symptoms, loneliness, and social isolation.[2] This study included adults, aged 65 years and older, without partners. Those with pets were less socially isolated than individuals without pets and felt less lonely.

In addition to the mental health benefits of owning a pet, it also increases physical activity. Increased physical activity helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles, and exercises lung function.

So, if there is a desire to have a pet, do the research and make sure the expense and care needed is understood, and then go for it!

[1] Genieve Zhe Hui Gan, Anne-Marie Hill, Polly Yeung, Sharon Keesing & Julie Anne Netto (2019): Pet ownership and its influence on mental health in older adults, Aging & Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2019.1633620

[2] Claudia Schulz, Hans-Helmut König, André Hajek. (2020) Differences in Self-Esteem Between Cat Owners, Dog Owners, and Individuals Without Pets. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 7.