Companion animals can help kids avoid dementia when they are old

A study published in 2011, Depression and risk of developing dementia, tells us that, “In particular, earlier-life depression (or depressive symptoms) has consistently been associated with a more than twofold increase in dementia risk.”

Companion animals can help kids avoid dementia when they are old
Companion animals can help kids avoid dementia when they are older. Image: MikeB
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It would seem that depression in later life might not have any impact upon the development of dementia in the elderly. This is about looking at the early years and how parents can take steps to minimise or reduce the possibility of developing dementia when their kids are old. Yes, this is about long-term planning.

Bearing in mind what I’ve said in the first paragraph, it would seem that parents should do all they can to minimise depression in their children.

This would seem to be particularly relevant today because based on what I read in the news media; the young people of the UK are going through a bit of a crisis themselves. There is an increased prevalence of self-harming, suicidal thoughts, and inevitably some form of depression in many schoolchildren.

A study concludes that, “cases of depression among secondary pupils aged 11 to 13 rose by 8.5% during the pandemic compared to a 0.3% increase for the same cohort prior to Covid”. The study comes from the University of Oxford’s psychiatry department.

How common is depression in children in the UK? Nice.org.uk state that depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in children and young people. It is believed to affect about 3% in post-pubertal young people.

Anything that can help to alleviate the possibility of young people developing depression must be welcome bearing in mind that depression in young people can lead to dementia in old age.

The Help Guide website tells us what perhaps we know already namely that pets, normally cats and dogs, can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression and ease loneliness in young people. Caring for an animal places a responsibility on a young person which helps them to grow up. It can be a challenge but challenges are good for young people as it focuses their minds which in turn can help remove sadnesses. And caring for an animal means the child is more active and activity helps alleviate depression.

You will see many thousands of articles on the Internet about how pets can improve the mental health of humans across the age spectrum. For example, touching a companion animal you love helps to increase oxytocin levels and reduces cortisol, the infamous stress-related hormone. Alleviate stress and you will help to alleviate anxiety and in turn help to alleviate depression.

The point of this article is that if a parent decides that their child is going through a tough time and might be depressed and anxious, they might consider adopting a rescue cat or dog from a shelter, not particularly for the benefit of the family in general but for the benefit of their child. And I believe their child should look after the animal as a primary carer with the assistance of their parents. It may have long-term benefits when they reach the lofty age of 65!

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