A new report shows dogs and cats can contribute to physical, mental and societal well-being of an ageing population.

The report, the first of its kind, was published today by the International Federation on Ageing, through an educational sponsorship from Bayer HealthCare.

Bayer says it suggests growing numbers of people across the globe could benefit from pet ownership.  

The report, Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons, provides a comprehensive literature review into the ways pets contribute to people’s physical and mental health and to the well-being of society and suggests more research into companion animals and their effects on human health.

Jane Barratt, secretary general of the International Federation on Ageing, said this field of research had important implications.

Dr Barratt said: “Many studies have broadly discussed how pets, such as dogs and cats, contribute to health by reducing anxiety, loneliness and depression, but until now, have not yet been published in a single resource. 

“This new report advances our understanding of the value of companion animals in the framework of human health and the broader society.”

As an example of the effect pets can have, Bayer cited the case of Pets As Therapy dog Bodie, a Jack Russell terrier, which visits care home residents in Conwy, Wales.

A company spokesman said: “When Bodie walks into the rooms of residents at Merton Place Nursing Home their faces light up.

“One 88-year-old resident, who is bedridden following a stroke, says he gives her something to look forward to every week and always makes a big fuss of her.”

According to Age UK statistics, for the first time, there are 11 million people aged 65 or over in the UK, and more people aged 60 or above than there are under 18.

Recent reports revealed 49% of those aged 65 and above said pets or television were their prime form of companionship, with one in eight (12%) saying pets were their main form of company.

Bayer’s chief medical officer Michael Devoy said the interaction between humans and animals was powerful.

“Animals can educate, motivate, and enhance the quality of life for people around the world,” he said. “Given the scope of this report, we are excited that this research has the ability to reach human healthcare practitioners, veterinarians, doctors, nurses, gerontologists, and social workers.”

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