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Animal interaction reduces loneliness in elderly

6th January 2006

Animal interaction could help to prevent loneliness within older people and encourage them to remain calm and more positive.

The results of a new study into the effects of human and animal interaction on elderly people have shown that people often prefer pets, reports Medical News Today.

Researchers at Saint Louis University carried out the study by taking dogs to visit nursing home residents, both with and without accompanying people, finding that people expressed more feelings of happiness after interaction with just the animals.

Feelings of loneliness had dropped after spending time alone with the dogs, compared to time with the dog and the people during the same session.

"The residents found a little quiet time with the pooch is a lot nicer than spending time with a dog and other people," explained study author William Banks.

The positive effects of having a pet are well documented but these new findings suggest that the presence of a well-behaved animal among elderly people can help to reduce feelings of loneliness.