|Title||The Impact of Sustained Ownership of a Pet on Cognitive Health: A Population-Based Study.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||Forthcoming|
|Authors||Applebaum, JW, Shieu, MM, McDonald, SE, Dunietz, GLevi, Braley, TJ|
|Journal||Journal of Aging and Health|
|Keywords||cognitive function, Cognitive health, companion animals, pet ownership, Pets|
To examine associations between sustained ownership of a pet and cognitive outcomes among a national sample of U.S. adults. Weighted linear mixed models were estimated using the Health and Retirement Study (2010-2016, = 1369) to compare repeated measures of cognitive function between respondents who endorsed owning a pet in a sustained manner (>5 years), versus those who owned a pet ≤5 years, and non-pet owners. Respondents aged 65+ who owned a pet >5 years demonstrated higher composite cognitive scores, compared to non-pet owners (β = .76, = .03). Sustained pet ownership was associated with higher immediate (β = .3, = .02) and delayed (β = .4, = .007) word recall scores. There were no significant differences in cognitive scores between pet owners and non-owners aged < 65. 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.