There is a surprising range of health benefits of pet ownership. Most of us have heard of the pet therapy programs in many hospitals because pets help patients recover faster on less medication. Patients return home sooner, the cost is less, and they’re happier and healthier overall.
The unconditional love provided by a pet is fairly rare in life and has proven to reduce anxiety and depression. It’s also obvious that this companionship reduces boredom and isolation especially for those residing alone. This emotional benefit has been scientifically proven to improve our physical health in a number of different areas. The results below are from a study(1) that examined these areas.
Cardiovascular Improvement: Dogs and cats provide similar benefits. A study found that, “If you have a cat, you’re 30% less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40% less likely to have a stroke.”(1)
Reduces Blood Pressure: This objective measure of health is especially true if your blood pressure is already elevated.
Improves Immunity and Allergies: Having a pet as a child can reduce allergies and increase immunity. Children raised on farms don’t have allergies and attend school more.
Decreases Stress: A study gave people a stressful task and found they experienced less distress when with their pets. This was better when compared to being with a family, spouse or friends.
Pain Management: A study in hospitals revealed that surgery patients need less pain medication and recover faster when pets are present. It has shown to reduce migraine and arthritis pain as well.
Improved Mood: A decrease in depressive symptoms is noted. It’s most likely from the unconditional love and companionship pets provide. Pet contact releases endorphins that have a pain killing and mood increasing effect.
Emotional Development: Caring for a pet, especially when young, enables better social skills and a sense of responsibility. Pets even increase literacy skills and self-confidence in children.
Social Benefit: It’s not a surprise that studies show dog owners are better socially connected and friendlier than non-owners. Taking your dog for a walk twice a day is a form of social networking.
May Lower Cholesterol: Pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels on average. The causal relationship is still being explored.
If you are already a pet owner, then you’ve already been taking care of your health. If you’re considering getting a pet, be sure you have the minimum time available to spend. Each type of pet needs a certain amount of attention because pets can get lonely and depressed too. For those retiring alone, I believe having a pet is an essential relationship for happiness and longevity.
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