Arriving home after a long and stressful day at work, you are greeted at the door by an overexcited four-legged friend. It can’t fail to make you smile. Owning a pet is without a doubt one of life’s greatest pleasures, as it provides you with company and laughter galore. But the benefits don’t stop there: your pet can do wonders for your health and well-being.
Pets can provide a host of health and wellness benefits
It’s no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives; not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer us unconditional love. Added to the indisputable charm of pets are the many benefits they offer for human health and well-being. We take a closer look at what these benefits are.
1. Lower risk of allergies
One of the most common triggers is pet dander. In this context, it may come as a surprise to find that pets can actually reduce the risk of developing allergies. A 2015 study linked exposure to dogs and farm animals in early childhood with a lower risk of developing school-age asthma. More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children exposed to pets before birth and up to 3 months afterward experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies.
These studies support the “hygiene hypothesis”, i.e. the theory that greater exposure to pathogens and potential allergens at an early age can strengthen the immune system, which can increase the allergy tolerance later in life.
2. Reduced anxiety and stress
The soothing sound of a cat’s purr or the feeling of “man’s best friend” cuddled up against your feet are guaranteed to help you feel comfortable, so it’s no surprise that pets can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Studies have shown that pets can help reduce anxiety and stress. A 2015 study found that children who had pet dogs in their household were much less likely to test positive for anxiety. Another study published last month found that children with pet dogs had lower levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol when interacting with their four-legged companions, compared to children who were not actively soliciting their dog.
Children who actively solicited their dog to come in for petting had lower cortisol levels than children who engaged their dog less. In contrast, when dogs prowled around children or approached them alone, children’s cortisol levels tended to be higher. But the de-stressing effects of pets are not limited to canine companions. Research published in 2014 found that riding and caring for horses helped lower cortisol levels and alleviate stress in teens.
3. Better heart health
Many of us know that good lifestyle habits, such as healthy eating and regular exercise, are key to reducing risk factors for heart disease. But did you know that your pet could also protect your heart health? A 2013 scientific statement from the American Heart Association concluded that owning a pet, especially a dog, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the co-author of the study, this result can be partly explained by an increase in physical exercise. Studies suggest that dog owners are 54 percent more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, compared to the general population. The statement also cites evidence that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and are less likely to be obese, which may benefit their heart health.
4. Stronger relationships and social skills
Most pet owners have a special bond with their furry friends. In fact, statistics show that over 66% of dog owners and 56% of cat owners consider their pet a member of the family. But according to recent studies, this bond between pet owners can also have a beneficial influence on our other relationships.
Research has shown that owning a pet may improve social skills. Research has found that people who have pets report having stronger romantic relationships than people who don’t. Pet owners reported higher overall relationship quality and better investment. Caring for a pet can also improve a person’s social skills. A 2014 study published in the journal Applied Developmental Science found that people who reported caring more for animals were more involved in the community and were more likely to hold a leadership position.
What’s more, the study found that adults who reported greater attachment to animals as teenagers demonstrated more empathy and trust as adults. More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any type of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information, or answering questions. ‘other people.
5. Better Mental Health
The most common mental illnesses include: depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While having a pet can’t cure mental illness, studies suggest it certainly could help. A study on this found that 60% of pet owners diagnosed with serious mental illness said their pet was “most important” in managing their condition. What’s more, the study found that participants with pets reported having a greater sense of control, as well as a sense of safety and routine.
Studies have shown that our beloved animal companions can also help reduce depression, so much so that many organizations recognize animal-assisted therapy as an effective treatment for depression and other mental illnesses.
A dog motivates you to get outside for fresh air and exercise, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. A dog brings you so much laughter and joy. And finally, a dog brings you unconditional love, the kind of love that never ends. With these three things in your life, anxiety and depression can be relieved.
6. Better sleep quality
Those of you who own dogs know all too well the frustration of seeing your four-legged friend asking for the sheets at bedtime. But don’t kick them out of bed just yet. Studies have shown that sharing a bed with your pet can actually lead to a better night’s sleep. One such study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that 41% of pet owners surveyed who allowed their pet to sleep in the bedroom or on the bed said they did not find their pet disruptive, and they have even reported that they sleep better, due to the sense of security, companionship and relaxation their pet provides.
After reading this article, you too can rest easy knowing that your pet can improve your health and well-being.