Boosting Your Health: The Benefits of Pets

 
1,433Views 0Comments Posted 23/05/2024

Research into the connection between pets and their owner’s health dates back at least four decades, with dozens of studies offering several surprising benefits. 

 

Pets may contribute to an improved well-being in several ways:

  • Keeping us company, which makes us feel less alone.
  • They can make us laugh and smile, which can lift our mood and manage stress.
  • Pets can comfort us during hard times.
  • They encourage us to get outdoors and exercise, along with giving us a routine and purpose.

 

 

Improve Physical Health

Pets are more than our loyal companions; they also may help protect heart and brain health.  Chronic stress can contribute to higher levels of inflammation, which in turn leads to poor blood vessel health. Flooding the body with adrenaline and cortisol can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.  However, pets are here to help.  When you stroke, hug or cuddle with your pet, your brain releases oxytocin (the happy hormone), which encourages your body to combat stress.  Pets can also inspire you to do other activities that are good for your heart health, such as movement and exercise.

 

Slowing Cognitive Decline

Some studies claim that owning a pet may have a positive effect on your brain and cognitive health.  A 2023 study found that older adults who owned a pet for five years or more scored higher on regular cognitive tests than those without pets. 

 

 

Mental Health Benefits

Pets need us, and we need them too.  In times of high stress and anxiety, routine is an important aspect to maintain, as it can help you feel centered and improve a sense of control over your life.  In a study of 448 people completed during the COVID-19 lockdowns, study participants completed online surveys that measured their mental health.  According to the results, pet owners coped better with the isolation compared to the non-pet owners.  People with pets also scored higher on measures of positive emotions and well-being. 

 

Interestingly, the pet doesn’t have to be living to help people feel less alone.  For people who are unable to care for a living pet, substitutes like robot pets, or battery-powered stuffed animals may also help.  Pets, especially dogs and cats, can improve your cardiovascular health.  They also provide valuable companionship and can help children grow up more secure and active. 

 

 

While it’s true that those with pets often experience greater health benefits than those without, a pet doesn’t have to necessarily be a dog or a cat.  A rabbit, birds, snakes, lizards and even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension, thus lowering your pulse rate.  Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. 

 

Playing with your pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.  One of the reasons for these effects is that pets fulfil the basic human need for touch.  Even hardened criminals in prison show long-term changes in their behavior after interacting with pets, with many prisoners experiencing mutual affection for the first time.

 

Please always adopt a pet in need instead of purchasing them from expensive (and sometimes shady) breeders.  Adopt, don’t shop!



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