If I asked you to name your immediate family members, would you include a pet? We definitely think of our animals as part of the family. My dog, Shaka, is often the first living being I speak to each morning.
Perhaps this strong connection between pets and owners is why so many studies have popped up over the years to answer this question: are pets the key to living a healthier (and perhaps, longer) life?
Shaka and I have dug around for some statistics (sorry, that pun was just begging to be used. Okay, I’ll stop now). We discovered 3 key health benefits tied to pet ownership…
1. Say goodbye to loneliness
Ask any doctor and they’ll tell you loneliness is not a good thing. It can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and medical complications. The presence of a pet makes tremendous strides against feelings of loneliness. But, is relying on an animal for companionship a healthy thing?
Actually, the more people interact with pets, the more likely they are to interact with other humans, also. One reason for this is increased self-esteem among pet owners. Hey, when I arrive home, Shaka thinks it’s the grandest event of all time – every time! That does put a little lift in your step. Plus, pets also give owners a reason to get out for a walk, go to the store to buy treats, and start a conversation (pet antics always make for good story sharing).
2. Decrease chances of depression
As if fending off loneliness weren’t enough, our pets also help to keep depression away. When we play with pets, our brains release some “feel good” chemicals known as serotonin and dopamine. The result? Increased feelings of happiness. Plus, studies have shown petting a cat or dog can calm us which reduces stress and tension. This articlefrom PscyhCentral outlines several ways pets introduce positive elements that help relieve depression.
Without a doubt, Shaka has proven a welcome distraction and comfort to me when things get tough (I didn’t go for the easy pun that time - you’re welcome). Given this first-hand experience, I understand how studies indicate pet owners bounce back faster from loss or rejection. They’re terrific comforters!
3. Lower risk of heart disease
When enjoying time with our pets, those de-stressing effects include lowered blood pressure. Dog owners in particular have been found 54% more likely to get the recommended amounts of physical activity each day and less likely to be obese. Lower blood pressure, lower body weight and increased activity all work together for improved heart health for pet owners. Perhaps the whole “which came first, the chicken or the egg” thing applies here. I say either way, just go grab that toy and enjoy some healthy, destressing play time with your furry pal.
There’s no definitive evidence to say pets will help you live longer, But. those of us who are pet owners don’t particularly care because we know they make our lives fuller.
Now it’s your turn! Have you experienced the health benefits of having a pet? Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.