THERE are plenty of companion-animal studies but many involve a handful of people, or look only at one point in time, which makes it hard to know for certain whether pets provide positive health effects. Also, a lot of studies focus on younger people and families.
However, there are some big long-term studies involving the elderly. Two of interest include:
> Do companion dogs make older people feel better? Scientists in the United States examining 938 elderly Medicare patients, all with serious health problems that required many doctor’s visits, found that over one year, dog owners needed significantly fewer clinic visits. Also, dog owners were significantly less stressed than non-doggy people. Several studies since in various communities have confirmed these results.
> Do dogs help keep older people mobile? A study in Australia involving more than 2,500 dog owners aged 71 to 82 for three years found that while only one-third of the dog owners walked their own dogs, those that did were significantly more mobile than those who did not and who did not own dogs. This is confirmed by lots of small studies.