Numerous studies have reported the health benefits of having a pet. But those who have had a beloved pet need no scientific evidence of the power of that relationship.
The pets we share our world with provide love, comfort, and companionship. And the bond between people and their pets has been shown to increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.
Owning a pet may reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. And studies have shown attending to the needs of a pet keeps their owners mentally sharp and adds structure and meaning to life.
Many of the benefits of having a pet are spinoffs from the effect of pets on emotional stress. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control found subjects were better able to manage a stressful situation when in the presence of their pets than in the presence of a spouse, family member or friend.
Lower stress usually means better heart health. Pet owners have lower blood pressure, a better cholesterol profile and are more likely to survive a heart attack, according to numerous studies. Within the first few months of acquiring a pet, according to one study, subjects showed a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a reduction in everyday health problems, and less need for physician services.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, participants who owned a pet reported an increased feeling of compassion for other people. The sense of awareness and accountability that comes with pet ownership translated into a greater awareness of others in the larger world, which respondents said provided them with an overall happier life.
For most of the above benefits, a cause/effect relationship is difficult to establish. It could be that individuals who follow a healthy lifestyle are also inclined to own a pet. It’s hard to argue, however, with the results of animal-assisted therapy.
For persons with disabilities, guide dogs have a long-established role. More recently, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers have been bringing animals into the treatment setting to interact with patients and meet physical and emotional needs.
If you have a pet, you know the benefits. When you see them today, give them some extra snuggles, maybe a treat or two, and thank them for everything they do to improve your health and well-being!