Updated: Jan 23, 2019
By Abby Bordeau ('22)
People across the world know the joy of owning a pet. Having a little furry friend to keep them company is what brings most pet owners joy. Besides that, there are many other mental and physical benefits of owning a pet, that can actually improve a person’s health.
One health benefit of owning a pet is that they can relieve stress. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University examined that dog owners who brought their dogs to work reported less anxiety during the duration of the work day, while employees who left their dogs at home or had no dog at all reported greater stress.
School counselor and pet owner Mrs. Julie Smith said, “When I’ve had a hard day and I’m stressed, I go home, and just the act of petting my cats or taking my dogs for a walk totally relieves my stress.”
Furthermore, owning a pet lowers blood pressure and increases heart health. This quality is mostly present in “hypertensive or high-risk patients”, which is related to pets reducing one’s stress. Even if everything in a person’s life is going wrong, the unconditional love of a pet stays.
The American Heart Association says that specifically dog ownership has the potential to reduce cardiovascular risk, and is likely the result from being required to walk some species of pets, often more than once a day, which encourages being outside more to pet owners. Additionally, more prominently in men, there is a momentous decrease of cholesterol in pet owners in contrast with those who don’t own pets.
Also, pets can also improve immunity to allergies, and researchers think that “the more pets you have earlier in life, the fewer allergies you will develop.” The dandruff on their fur helps children in their younger ages develop protection to bacteria in the air. A study showed that kids who were ages five to seven who lived with animals went to school three weeks more in general than kids who did not.
To continue, pet owners experience less pain than those who don’t own pets. Since pets can lower anxiety, that trait can help when a person has chronic pain such as migraines or arthritis. Most pain comes from tense muscles, therefore pets calm people and relax those muscles so there is less pain.
A study in Loyola University found that people who have pets keeping them company while in surgery recovery overall need much less pain medicine than petless people.
Additionally, pets improve mood and emotional health. There has been research done showing that pet owners have better self-esteem and more bravery than non-pet owners. They also tend to be extroverts and have a lot of friends.
One study had patients with diseases such as dementia, psychosis, and depression use pet therapy. They reported less depressive symptoms in those patients and better functioning in their lives in general. There is also a decreased suicide rate in pet owners because they know they have someone else that they are responsible for. People who own pets laugh more and get more attention when coming home, which boosts their mood.
Mrs. Smith explained, “All pets really want is your love and attention. When you give it to them, it benefits you as well.”
Pets also encourage social interaction. In 2014, a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that dogs helped children suffering from autism talk to more people, and make more conversation. Some people find it hard to communicate with others, and animals are a great conversation starter. Similarly, pets help people make new connections, which is important for a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, pets allow people to live in the moment. Pets act the only way they know how to, which is to focus on what is directly in front of them. Humans tend to worry about their futures more than live in the present. Pets innately enjoy life as it comes, which influences their owners to do the same.
Mrs. Smith added, “Pets make it very easy for you to live in the moment. I think that people underestimate how important it is to have an animal and the benefits of them.” Pets benefit humans physically and emotionally, making them a perfect companion.