Cats, dogs and even goldfish are great companions. They are always loving and in tune with our emotional feelings. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, promote social interaction and encourage exercise.
Recent studies have begun to scientifically explore the benefits of the human-animal bond. The American Heart Association has linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity. Dr. James Griffin, a scientist at National Institute of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said, “The general belief is that there are health benefits to owning pets, both in terms of psychological growth and development, as well as physical health benefits.”
So what exactly have these studies found? Take a look at this list of benefits of pet ownership from HelpGide.org.
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depressions.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
One reason for these therapeutic effects is that most pets fulfill the basic human need for touch. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. Pets also help with your social, emotional and physical health. Here are other ways pets improve your health.
- You get more exercise. Taking your dog for a walk, riding a horse or chasing your cat around the house gets you up, active and moving. Research funded by the National Institutes of Health revealed that more than 2,000 adults who owned and walked their dogs regularly were in better shape, and were less likely to be become obese, than those who did not walk a dog.
- Pets reduce stress. Pets give you an endless emotional support system. They innately know when you need them most, which gives you a feeling of belonging and a self-esteem boost.
- Pets help you meet people. If you have a dog you might take them to the dog park, out for a walk or bring them to an outdoor Research indicates this leads to more conversations with neighbors, and in general being more socially connected. But this doesn’t apply only to dogs. Other pet owners can meet and socialize in pet stores or other social settings.