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A tail-wagging, feel-good study

January 19, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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Researchers are looking into the mental and physical health benefits of four legs and a wagging tail.

The findings support senior advocates’ calls for policies that encourage pet ownership among older adults, particularly among those in assisted living facilities, retirement homes or rental apartments.

“Pets help with mental and physical health, provide connection to other people and give their owners a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” says Anna Muraco, PhD, associate professor of sociology at Loyola Marymount University told The Bay Area Reporter “Pets help ward off depression, and dogs are a good way for people to get out and exercise.”

Muraco and co-authors Jennifer Putney, PhD, and Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, PhD., studied the role of pets for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults 50 and older. They presented their findings at the Gerontological Society of America’s 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting. They focused specifically on LGBT seniors because they are at higher risk of isolation as they are more likely to live alone and lack family connections.

Researchers reviewed data from the National Health, Aging and Sexuality Study: Caring and Aging with Pride Over Time, the first ever ongoing study of LGBT seniors. About half of 1,039 survey participants have pets, and pet owners reported higher social, psychological and financial resources than those without pets. Researchers also interviewed 59 respondents who lived the Los Angeles area. Two-thirds of interviewees have pets and a majority of them said their provide companionship, promote activity, serve as family members and offer unconditional love.

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