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InTheEndEntropyWins t1_j243y9x wrote

This was just a correlational study, so why do they assume pet ownership is causal? (Paper is paywalled so maybe someone else can see their reasoning).


>Sustained ownership of a pet could mitigate cognitive disparities in older adults. Further studies are needed to examine potential causal pathways, including physical activity and stress buffering, versus selection effects.


konqueror321 t1_j248na9 wrote

I would assume that people who have better cognitive abilities would be more likely to successfully get, care for, feed, and provide vet care for a pet than a person who is in some stage of cognitive decline, ie pet ownership is a marker of better cognition and not a cause of it.


SpongeJake t1_j24gx8e wrote

Near the end of the article they suggest more study is required, and they state specifically that one shouldn't come to conclusions about cause and effect. They further state that it's possible some people are already in a good mental place, and thus are better able to look after pets.

I know anecdotal accounts are nearly worthless when it comes to making conclusions, but I can tell you as one who is near the age group involved, that I just got a kitten this past summer. I have never laughed or smiled so much in a long time. And the stark differences between my mental health pre-and-post kitty are profound. I had no idea how dark my life had gotten until he came along.

The article mentions isolation as being a contributing factor to dementia, and so this makes me wonder if the fact that you are now once again responsible for a life plays a contributing factor. Human beings need connection, whether it's person or pet. Having that positive connection has been shown to be helpful for one's health in other ways. Wouldn't surprise me to learn that pet ownership can prevent dementia as well. But…we need more data.


asdaaaaaaaa t1_j259re7 wrote

Also being happy in general usually leads to better things, including health. I don't know many people who decide to get pets despite hating animals/pets, I'd imagine most people buy pets for comfort/company, or happiness.


fadufadu t1_j25ifld wrote

I think maybe having a pet makes you have to use more of your brain compared to not having a pet because you have another life to take care of, so in terms of “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, becomes kind of relevant.

Edit: fixed grammar


President-Jo t1_j25s2fp wrote

Is this a classic case of “correlation, not causation”?


calientenv t1_j25uv1f wrote

I live in a rural area a vet is 150 miles away. One way. So I don't think it's responsible to have a pet so far from care. What if something bad happened? There was a vet that came up a couple of times a week, but she had a baby and can't do it anymore. If there is anyone out there who knows a vet that wants to live in rural Nevada, please get in touch. There's work here.


Zozorrr t1_j2615q5 wrote

It may be a classic case of unidirectional causation not simply bidirectional correlation.

We don’t know yet. If you think there is anything here indicating it’s not causal - go ahead and articulate it


watermelonkiwi t1_j26dhiw wrote

This is standard these days to state the possibility of a casual relationship we don’t know is there, put that out there in the news so it gets cemented as truth in people’s minds, and say follow up studies are needed, but then never do them.


kaisear t1_j26fqsy wrote

"The study also found that those who owned a pet for a period above five years showed indicators of greater physical activity, lower body mass
index, and lower incidence of diabetes and hypertension compared to
participants who owned a pet for a shorter period or did not own one. "


riricide t1_j26jc5f wrote

You would think so, but watch any episode of hoarders and you'll see almost all of them are pet owners. My guess is they don't feel accepted or welcome by people and turn to pets instead.


ImGhostyy t1_j26levb wrote

I would like to have a cat but I live in an small apartment and barely look after myself.


BiggThiccDixx t1_j26pnji wrote

Animals can't be owned, they're not objects like a chair.


PoopIsAlwaysSunny t1_j270603 wrote

Pets are expensive af. Having money is connected to better health, news at 10!


Baardhooft t1_j2707zi wrote

It’s a weird one, because I can’t take care of myself either but you bet your ass I did everything for my cats and dogs. Having someone to take care of and look forward to is so amazing. I haven’t owned a pet in years now and those have been my hardest years when it comes to dealing with struggles. Animals are amazing at providing comfort.


SophiaofPrussia t1_j270at0 wrote

I think it’s more likely that it goes both ways. Pets require you to do things that are good for you that you otherwise might not do. If you’re depressed or achy or feeling down and tempted to stay in bed all day that’s just not going to happen when you have a hungry demanding cat or a dog who needs to go out. Walks, even short walks, are good for you. I’ve taken my dog on so many walks I did not at all want to go on because it was chilly or rainy or dark or I was tired or whatever. Sometimes I wish I had started tracking how many steps I’ve taken with my dog to see how many miles of walking I do with him that I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I bet it would be a lot more than I realize. Maybe I’ll track that in 2023 just for fun!


YourUncleBuck t1_j276du1 wrote

They also keep you from being lonely, which is never good for your mental health either.

>Education has been found to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia and a number of other factors have been found to have the same effect. These factors include physical inactivity, depression, social isolation, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and chronic stress.

>Pet ownership is one aspect of lifestyle that is known to influence many health and disease outcomes via emotional support and stress buffering.


weaselmaster t1_j2778yp wrote

I’d bet this applies only if you LIKE pets in the first place. If you fear or resent the pet, I’d bet the added stress is a NEGATIVE for cognitive health.


LonePaladin t1_j27dbq5 wrote

I don't know. My mom decided, after her last cat died, that she didn't want to risk having a pet outlive her. It's not that she doesn't like cats, she just doesn't want someone else to possibly end up inheriting one when they don't want it.


pennyfanclub t1_j27gb8c wrote

This is one of the main reasons I’d like to get a dog with my partner in the next couple years. It’s very hard for me to motivate myself to take regular walks/leave my house/be in the sun outdoors/touch grass. Having a creature who will be guaranteed to poop in my house if I don’t take him outside and around the block is amazing motivation. I’m currently a pet sitter on the side and damn do I feel better mentally and physically when I watch dogs who need many walks throughout the day.


juggles_geese4 t1_j27jyzn wrote

If you’re in the position to do so, I’d reassure her that you’d give her pet a loving home if she passed. That you wouldn’t feel forced to take them and they’d be wanted. My thing would be how hard it is for pets to lose their owner. It’s hard to explain to them why you’re suddenly gone one day. Sometimes they can smell that you’re dieing, if you are sick and die at home on hospice. I’m not sure if they know the smell of death if you die suddenly at home or not. That would be the biggest reason I’d be really hesitant to adopt a new pet. Especially a young one. Maybe talk her into adopting an older one. They need loving homes too for their final couple of years!


DrEvil007 t1_j27m7iw wrote

One of the reasons why I've yet to fulfill my childhood dream of having a dog is that during my worst depressive years, there were moments where I couldn't even care for myself. Bringing another life form into my life, I don't know if that would have improved my life at the time or make it worse, as in now I have responsibility to take care of this pet. Can I do it? I don't think I could have.


pumaofshadow t1_j27p5gb wrote

Yep, a ton of factors. People keep trying to push dogs on the physically ill where I am but it wouldn't help for me, and neither would a home bound pet coz I can barely look after myself. Its not motivation I lack, its the ability to do it safely.

Also once you have a pet and let it down by not being cognatively capable of ensuring it stays healthy hopefully services, people around you and common sense stop you getting another pet. (Sadly not always the case though).


Dave-1066 t1_j28kzsf wrote

One conclusion would be that people who own pets tend to be more nurturing, people who are nurturing tend to be well liked and want to be part of a community, people who take an active part in their community tend to exercise more and have lower blood pressure, healthy blood pressure levels are shown to lower cognitive impairment and the risk of developing dementia.

In other words, this is a very broad network of factors.


Laladelic t1_j28qsff wrote

My cats force me to have SOME routine (feed on time, clean litter every day, provide attention, etc). Routine is good for the brain.


RandomBoomer t1_j28u6br wrote

I'm in my late 60s now, so this study is intriguing.

Back in 2020, when my whole world shut down to just our house, we ended up with two rescue kittens (one just showed up on our porch, the other was starving in the alley behind our house). They were such a bright light during that time, which was stressful even for me, a confirmed misanthrope.

Those two kittens brought the total count to 6 cats (plus a dog), which is a stressor of another kind, but the constant interaction with other sentients beings is exercise in staying cogent and physically active.


SerialStateLineXer t1_j299uz0 wrote

Reasoning about cause and effect when it comes to this kind of thing is really hard, and frankly, a lot of people in epidemiology and especially journalists just aren't that good at it. Researchers get fooled by reverse causation and confounders all the time, and it's very easy for fallacious conclusions and spurious findings to get laundered into "fact" through repeated citation. This is especially likely to happen with feel-good stuff like "pets prevent Alzheimer's" or "wine prevents heart disease."

Maybe dog ownership improves health by promoting exercise, but there's very unlikely to be any real direct, clinically important biological effect of warm fuzzy feelings or reduced loneliness or whatever.


putney t1_j29mi0n wrote

Pets make life better.


MurphysLab t1_j2b6byu wrote

The PsyPost article doesn't mention and I don't have access to the journal, so perhaps someone can tell me: Does the study ask whether there's a difference between owning a cat, dog, bird, or other kind of pet? Having a dog would also lead to more walking compared to owning a cat, so I'm curious if that's playing a mediating role in protecting cognitive health.


jack_12j t1_j2du7n9 wrote

“While the longitudinal associations in our study are compelling, the design of the study did not allow us to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship,” Braley explained. “Additional prospective work that includes information on strength of the human-animal bond and its effect on cognitive trajectories, and incorporates study of biological mechanisms that could mediate this relationship, are still needed.” (Braley is Tiffany J. Braley--one of the authors.)

This can be an interesting finding and a prompt for further research, but I absolutely agree with a caution about turning correlation into causation. The burden of proof should be on the affirmative.

Also, it's difficult to have a well-informed debate because the link is to an article about the paper--not the paper itself.


calientenv t1_j2fk67e wrote

Yes, there are tons of pets..just figured they made the drive. Thanks for the great idea. My little dog got kicked in the head by a wild burro and lost an eye, but I lived 25 miles from the first vet. She saved him. So I'm just afraid of stuff like that.