If you are an animal lover, you know how enjoyable owning a pet can be. Our furry friends are cute and cuddly, as well as a constant source of amusement. They also give us unconditional love, are always happy to see us and make terrific companions.
But, did you know a beloved pet can also provide their human counterparts a variety of positive health benefits?
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with numerous studies conducted by the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, pets can have positive effects on both a person’s physical and mental health.
For pet owners, this is really terrific news because it means that simply being around your pet is good for you!
The Power of Pets
The bond between a human and their pet can be a powerful one.
So, what exactly is the human-animal bond? And, why does it matter?
According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), the human-animal bond is “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.”
It has been suggested that the power of the human-animal bond may be invoked by the need (and desire) people have for more meaningful connections than everyday life often provides. The human-animal bond is powerful because it encourages positive social interactions through both physical contact and nonjudgmental relationships.
This extraordinary bond between human and animal also has the ability to change our neurochemistry, creating positive physiological, emotional and behavioral benefits. As a result, our consistent social encounters with animals, as well as the relationships we form with our pets produce a rewarding sense of relaxation, fun, and well-being.
Therefore, it’s not really surprising that many pet owners feel the relationships they have with their pets are some of the most trusting, easy-going ones they have—especially when you consider how this bond consistently results in affection, comfort, and security, as well as a variety of other health benefits.
It’s also interesting to note that the emotional, psychological, and physical connections people have with animals has long been documented and studied. Since the beginning of civilization to the present, the human-animal bond has evolved overtime. What initially began as a working relationship (hunting, farming, herding) has now evolved to include emotional support, therapy, and service.
In fact, the science and history behind this bond not only provides us with a deeper understanding of the relationship between humans and animals—it also offers humans a better insight into how truly fulfilling the bond you have with your pet can be.
Let’s take a look on how a pet can benefit our mental and physical well-being
According to a study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Cohen Research Group, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership and 54% of pet owners reported physical health improvements from pet ownership.
- Studies show that the simple act of petting an animal increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain—two chemicals that are essential for happiness and relaxation.
- Interacting with pets has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure
- Pets often provide a structure and routines in our daily lives—which can alleviate daily stressors and help focus our thoughts.
- For older adults, a strong pet-owner bond has been associated with lower levels of loneliness and social isolation—which promotes mental wellness.
- Owning a pet can reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms- this is especially beneficial for veterans (and others) who have experienced trauma and suffer from PTSD.
- Pet ownership helps increase social networks and access to social support—which encourages pet owners to meet new people and make new friends.
- Pet owners (especially those who are older) have been shown to be better at paying attention, remembering details, and learning from past experiences than those who don’t own pets—this is especially beneficial for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pets enhance our feelings of security—both inside and outside the home.
- Our furry companions can make us feel needed, valued, and loved.
- Dog ownership has been associated with a 24% lower risk of death over the long term, when compared to non-owners.
- Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to be on medication. They also experience fewer visits to the doctor.
- Pet owners are more likely to engage in physical activity—keeping them active through playing, running, or walking with their pet. Daily physical activity also enables older pet owners to maintain mobility in their later years.
- Research suggests that due to associated increased physical activity and social support, dog owners, especially those in single households, have better outcomes after suffering a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
- Adults with pets have healthier physiological responses to stress, including lower baseline heart rate and blood pressure, as well as less cardiovascular reactivity to, and faster recovery, from mild stressors.
- The American Heart Association has said that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be associated with better overall heart health and decreased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
- According to studies, pet ownership has been shown to slow the development or progression of hypertension in older adults.
- Pets may aid in helping their older owners maintain the ability to physically care for themselves independently.
Health Benefits of Pets for Children
Growing up with a pet can bring social, emotional, physical and educational benefits to children and teenagers.
- Boosts immunity—children who grow up with pets have less risk of allergies and asthma.
- A loving pet’s mere presence can help provide a sense of security in children—this can ease separation anxiety when parents have to leave the home.
- The unconditional love and companionship of a pet can make a child feel important and help them develop a positive self-image.
- Pets can provide children with a heightened understanding of others.
- Pets can help children cope with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Children who become emotionally attached to their pets are better equipped to build relationships with other people.
- Pets motivate children to participate in more physical activity.
- Pets can provide emotional support for children, help them deal with stress, be more self-confident, and understand responsibility.
- Pets offer various opportunities for children to feel both nurtured and needed.
- Research indicates that interacting and engaging with animals can have positive effects on children with Autism.
- Pets can help children with learning disabilities learn how to regulate stress and calm themselves, making them better equipped to overcome the challenges they face with their disorder.
- Pets that live in the home/apartment (as well as therapy dogs on campus) can help boost college students' attention, memory, and help alleviate stress.
It is easy to see why humans have developed powerful bonds with their pets. Historically speaking, humans have always had an interest and connection with animals in their environment. While it may be true that the first human-animal relationships were more of a utilitarian nature, the role of animals has changed and evolved from solely being a ‘worker’ to a beloved and cherished member of the family.
If you are a pet owner, you know that nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal and loving companion. Scientific evidence further supports the psychological, physical, and physiological benefits of this meaningful bond; so you can’t help but wonder why everyone on the planet wouldn’t want to experience owning a pet, especially when it offers so many positive health benefits.
It would be difficult to ignore all the emotional and physical gains a pet can offer humans; with studies showing:
- 94% of heart patients with pets survived heart attacks, compared to only 72% without pets
- 26% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- 40% of pet owners reporting that they receive social support from people they met through their pet
- Pet owners are 36% less likely to report loneliness than non-pet owners.
Although there are situations and/or circumstances that sometimes make it impossible for people to own a pet, that doesn’t mean they can’t reap the benefits from forming a bond with animals who are not their own. From fostering pets waiting for adoption, pet sitting for friends and neighbors, volunteering at the local animal shelter to participating in animal visitation and therapy programs, there are a number of ways to enjoy the company of animals when long-term or full-time pet ownership isn’t possible.
Bottom line is that our pets are good for us for so many reasons; and, the bond we share with them, whether we are 6 years old or 60, might just be the secret to living a happier and healthier life!
Spring Naturals - Smart Pet Nutrition
You can help your pet live a happier and healthier life with smart pet nutrition. Like humans, a healthy protein, low-carb, low-glycemic diet is optimal for a long and healthy pet life. In fact, Spring Naturals is the original high-protein kibble to be certified low glycemic and is formulated to be the most nutritionally balanced kibble available today. Shop now at SpringNaturals.com.