Pet ownership offers a surprising range of health benefits. Most of us have heard of the pet therapy programs in many hospitals because pets help patients recover faster on less medication. The hospital program is a big success because 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. Pets offer companionship that 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. Here are health results from a pet study(1).
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)
BLOOD PRESSURE: So many people are on hypertension medications so early in life. We need to find a better method to control this. The comfort of a pet actually lowers blood pressure and makes the biggest difference if blood pressure is already elevated.
IMMUNITY AND ALLERGIES: Having a pet as a child can reduce allergies and increase immunity. Children raised on farms don’t have allergies, have less illnesses, and attend school more often on average.
DECREASES STRESS: A study gave people a stressful task and found they experienced less distress when with their pets. This relaxation response was better when compared to being with a family, spouse or friends. Pets can reduce stress more than our own spouse or best friend!
PAIN MANAGEMENT: A study in hospitals revealed that surgery patients need less pain medication and recover faster when pets are present. Pets can reduce migraine and arthritis pain as well.
IMPROVED MOOD: A decrease in a range depressive symptoms has been 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 are 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. I’ve personally had pets since I was a child and I’ve always enjoyed the special supportive relationship they offer. L. Johnson http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com
(1)Gekas, A. 2-28-11 10. Benefits of Owing a Pet. Retrieved from: womansday.com/life/pet-care/a2352/10-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet-116238/