For many people, there is nothing more fulfilling after a long day than coming home to the love of a pet rather than a lonely, empty house. Indeed, for nearly 25 years, research has consistently shown that living with a pet has health benefits. They’re also a great way to start a conversation, and even get a date.
For years, research has shown that living with a pet contributes to good health. Studies have indicated that the connection between people and their pets can bring joy, improve fitness and reduce stress. Pet’s antics make us laugh and, like any enjoyable activity, playing with a pet can up levels of serotonin and dopamine, the nerve transmitter known to calm and produce a feeling of pleasure.
There are other health benefits of having a pet, including lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglycerides and the feeling of loneliness. Pets also increase opportunities for socialization, outdoor activities and exercise.
One study of stockbrokers with hypertension found that those with a dog or cat had lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without. Blair Justice, PhD, Psychology Professor, University of Texas, School of Public Health, says that people under stress are in a disease-prone state where dangerous chemicals can affect their immune system. He adds that studies show that these harmful chemicals, together with the buildup of plaque in the arteries, is a warning sign for heart disease. For heart attack patients, several studies indicate that if they have a pet they survive longer than those who don’
Many people still believe the old-school philosophy that children prone to allergies should not be exposed to pets. However, a large body of studies shows that kids have a lower risk of asthma, allergies and even eczema if they are raised in a home with ‘furry animals’, or on a farm where they’re in contact with large animals. One recent study shows that babies exposed to dirt and allergens have stronger immune systems.
Dogs & the Elderly
Further research has shown that patients with Alzheimer’s have less anxious outbursts when they have a pet in the house. The positive impact is also felt by their caregivers, who feel less burdened with a pet around, especially a cat that requires less care than a dog.
For elderly people who are able, caring for a pet or walking a dog is a great motivator for getting exercise and also offers companionship.
Overall, having pets is not just good for the health, but good for the soul!