Scientists investigate effects of dog ownership on older people’s health

23 April 2013

Scientists investigate effects of dog ownership on older people’s health

Could owning a dog be the key to a healthier old age?

Dogs are well known for being man’s best friend - but could owning one also be the key to a healthier old age?

That’s the question academics from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and the University of Lincoln are asking as part of a unique study into whether dog ownership could help to keep older people fit and well.

Academics from both universities are investigating healthy activity patterns and sedentary behaviour among older people who own dogs. The study will focus on the incidental activity that comes with dog ownership, such as the impact of the amount of walking around the house. Academics will use an activPAL monitor – a device developed in Glasgow to capture activity data which will be worn by the older person as they go about their everyday tasks.

This research aims to provide the first objective and quantifiable data on the influence of dog ownership on the activity of older adults. Previous research has only focused on walking dogs outdoors.

GCU’s Dr Philippa Dall, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Psychology and Allied Health Sciences, said: “With increasing obesity in Western countries and ageing populations, identifying and understanding the factors that can contribute to healthy ageing is vitally important and there is good reason to think that dog ownership might be one such factor.”

The University of Lincoln will lead on animal welfare and human-animal interaction, while GCU will assess the activity of older adults.

The International Society of Anthrozoology and WALTHAM® funded the two University teams as part of a competitive call for research proposals into human-animal interactions, with a particular focus on the role pets play in the lives of older adults.

The study will begin recruiting volunteers in the Lincoln area in April 2013 and is set to run until July 2014.


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