Pets are more than just best friends, they can also boost mental, emotional and physical health.
- Posted on Jan 23, 2019
Research is proving what pet lovers have long known to be true: pets enhance the quality and quantity of life for their human companions.
Hundreds of studies have found benefits of pet ownership for reasons varying from lower BMI to better mental health. Here are a few of the ways your furry friend can help prolong your life:
A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports found that people who owned dogs had a lower risk of heart disease. These findings were especially true for people who lived alone, although people in multi-person households also experienced a health benefit. Studies have also shown improved heart conditions in cat owners. A study in The American Journal of Cardiology found that dog owners were also slightly more likely to survive a year after a heart attack.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has published research showing a correlation between pet ownership and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Researchers believe dogs may have a calming effect on their owners, which helps keep these crucial numbers in check.
The exact reasons why pets have such a positive benefit on heart health is unknown. Scientists believe one contributing factor is that dog owners are more likely to exercise. The AHA found that dog owners are 54 percent more likely than the average person to get 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
“Dogs have a positive impact on depression and anxiety,’’ Lori Kogan, a professor at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine told The Washington Post. “When someone loses a spouse or partner, for example, having a dog provides a reason to get up and be social.”
One study found that petting a rabbit or turtle reduced anxiety--even in people who weren’t animal lovers.
Other studies have shown a connection between pet ownership and improved mental health. One reason could be that pets fill a need for physical touch. Researchers performed a meta-analysis into 17 research papers on the benefits of pets for people struggling with mental health issues and found that pets provided a source of stability and purpose that alleviated depression and anxiety.
Pets don’t just reduce mental pain, they can also reduce how people perceive physical pain. A study published in Pain Medicine found that hospital patients reported feeling less pain after spending time with therapy dogs.
It’s no coincidence that spending time with your pet improves your mood. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that petting a dog triggered the brain to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Not only that, spending time with animals actually decreased levels of the stress-hormone cortisol.
If you don't have a pet, don't worry! One study found that just watching a cat video gave participants an energy boost and improved their mood.
How do pets improve your life? Leave a comment below and let us know!