How Pets Affect Your Health, According to Science
It’s a proven fact that taking care of a dog, cat, or other species of animal is beneficial for you on many levels. As a matter of fact, there are several studies that analyze how your pets affect your health, and the results all agree that they improve both your life and your psychological well-being.
Nonhuman animals quickly become members of the family. In fact, their loss involves grief akin to that suffered due to the death of a human. Given this close relationship, their presence in your daily life is bound to have significant mental health benefits for you.
This article reviews the most important studies that have been conducted concerning the relationship between humans and other animals. Read on, and see if you recognize any of the benefits.
How pets affect your health, according to science
If you’re lucky enough to share your life and home with a pet, you surely feel the weight of responsibility when it comes to their well-being. However, far from being a burden, this often gives you a sense of satisfaction, knowing that your pet’s happy and healthy.
If you want to know what else science has discovered, read on.
Pets reduce feelings of loneliness
Studies have long suggested the link between caring for an animal and reduced feelings of loneliness. This occurs both due to the animal’s own company and an increase in the ease of socializing.
For example, if you have a dog, you’ll find yourself interacting with other people on a daily basis. Furthermore, these are often positive interactions. They happen when you walk your dog. For people experiencing loneliness and sadness, these encounters can be extremely therapeutic.
They’re a supporting factor in mental illness
Those people who suffer from mental illnesses, especially chronic conditions, find themselves in the situation of having to live constantly controlling their symptoms. In certain contexts, such as where there’s a lack of resources and absence of support networks, this can prove to be an unbearable burden. However, according to a 2016 study, these kinds of feelings are alleviated by the presence of pets.
The study claims that animals are a valuable source for people to control their feelings. That’s because they tend to distract them from their symptoms and disturbing experiences. Pets also provided a form of stimulus for activity. They’re particularly important when people experience difficult relationships with other people in their social network.
Pets relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
Although the company of an animal can’t replace a therapeutic or pharmacological treatment, it does constitute a factor for improving quality of life.
In fact, spending time with a pet reduces your feelings of sadness and anxiety, as well as insecurity, by giving you a sense of belonging and usefulness.
How pets affect health in the elderly
Pets can benefit older adults by providing companionship for them. Furthermore, a 2019 study claims that pets alleviate feelings of a lack of purpose and lack of vital meaning. They also reduce loneliness and help people to socialize.
This study also found that, in older people with mental disorders, pets were a factor promoting resilience in certain acute ailments.
Pets protect against coronary heart disease
The physical benefits of having a pet directly affect your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. This is especially relevant in the case of dogs, with the related increased physical exercise you get. Furthermore, the psychological benefits of having any pet protect against mental health disorders.
The company of animals also contributes to recovery after a coronary episode.
Conclusions: responsible tenure
Do all these benefits mean that animals should be “prescribed” to people at risk of disease or as therapy? Opinions are mixed. While some implement animal-assisted therapy initiatives, others argue that animals aren’t instruments to be exploited for our benefit.
It seems that the main way in which pets affect your mental health concerns the way in which you take care of them. Indeed, it’s not just about enjoying their company, but you get a vital sense of meaning from looking after them.
If you decide to include an animal in someone’s life to help them overcome or cope with a disease, you must also ensure that that animal will have a good life.
Remember to always adopt instead of buying. That’s because humans aren’t the only ones who need psychological support and new opportunities.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Gómez, L. F., Atehortua, C. G., & Orozco, S. C. (2007). La influencia de las mascotas en la vida humana. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias, 20(3), 377-386.
- Brooks, H., Rushton, K., Walker, S., Lovell, K., & Rogers, A. (2016). Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC psychiatry, 16(1), 1-12.
- Hui Gan, G. Z., Hill, A. M., Yeung, P., Keesing, S., & Netto, J. A. (2020). Pet ownership and its influence on mental health in older adults. Aging & mental health, 24(10), 1605-1612.
- Piqueras, C. (2013). Terapia cognitiva y terapia asistida con animales en el tratamiento de la depresión (Doctoral dissertation, Universidad de Belgrano. Facultad de Humanidades. Carrera de Psicologìa).
- Patronek, G. J., & Glickman, L. T. (1993). Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease. Medical Hypotheses, 40(4), 245-249.