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Intersection - Could Dogs Help You Live Longer? How Interacting with Pets Can Affect Our Health

Sara Shahriari/KBIA

This week on intersection we are joined by Dr. Rebecca Johnson. She is the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing and Public Policy Professor at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing. She's also a professor and serves as the director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Johnson researches how people and pets interact, including the beneficial effects animals can have on people and the science behind it all.

Credit University of Missouri
Professor Rebecca Johnson

“There are biochemical benefits that we can measure,” Johnson says. “We can also measure heart rate and the space between heart beats because we know that when you interact with an animal there is a relaxation effect - your heart rate slows respiratory rates and your blood pressure goes down.”

Johnson's research found that there are health benefits for older adults who walk dogs.

The TigerPlace Pet Initiative is a collaboration between the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. The initiative helps older adults living in the TigerPlace retirement community acquire and care for pets.


Assistant producers for this show are Beatriz Costa-Lima and Drew Mathieu.

Sara Shahriari was the assistant news director at KBIA-FM, and she holds a master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. Sara hosted and was executive producer of the PRNDI award-winning weekly public affairs talk show Intersection. She also worked with many of KBIA’s talented student reporters and teaches an advanced radio reporting lab. She previously worked as a freelance journalist in Bolivia for six years, where she contributed print, radio and multimedia stories to outlets including Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg News, the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Deutsche Welle and Indian Country Today. Sara’s work has focused on mental health, civic issues, women’s and children’s rights, policies affecting indigenous peoples and their lands and the environment. While earning her MA at the Missouri School of Journalism, Sara produced the weekly Spanish-language radio show Radio Adelante. Her work with the KBIA team has been recognized with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and PRNDI, among others, and she is a two-time recipient of funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.