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Health and Nutrition


07 May 2019 14:03
Pets Help Older Adults Cope With Health Issues 
Pets help older adults cope with mental and physical health issues, according to a new national poll. But pets can also bring concerns, and some people may even put their animals' needs ahead of their own health, the poll finds. Three-quarters of pet owners aged 50 to 80 say their animals reduce their stress and give them a sense of purpose. But 18 percent also said having one puts a strain on their budget.

Pet Positives

Companionship and social connection were positive side effects of pet ownership for many poll respondents.

In fact, more than half of those who owned pets said they did so specifically to have a companion -- and a slightly higher percentage said their pets sleep in bed with them. Sixty-five percent of pet owners said having a pet helps connect them to other people, too.

"Relationships with pets tend to be less complicated than those with humans, and pets are often a source of great enjoyment," says Mary Janevic, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant research scientist at the U-M School of Public Health who helped design the poll. "They also provide older adults with a sense of being needed and loved."

Pet Problems

Other concerns about pet ownership emerged in the poll results. More than half of pet owners said that having a pet also made it difficult to travel or enjoy activities outside the home.

And one in six said that they put their pet's needs ahead of their own health needs -- a figure that was closer to one in four among those with health issues.

"Later life is often a time when people have more freedom to travel, and a long list of things they want to do with their free time, and sometimes having a pet can get in the way,"says Janevic. "For people living on a fixed income, expenses related to health care for pets, and especially pets that have chronic health issues, can be a struggle. Older adults can also develop health problems or disabilities that make pet care difficult."

A full report of the findings and methodology is available at www.healthyagingpoll.org , along with past National Poll on Healthy Aging reports.

This article has been shortened to fit our format. You can read the full article on line at sciencedaily.com .