America is a nation of animal lovers: as much as 70% of us own at least one pet. Our pets have evolved over the years to become attuned to human emotions and behavior. Dogs, for example, have learned to understand many basic words and can accurately interpret gestures, body language and tone of voice. (Cats also have similar traits, if they decide they want to!) It’s for this reason that many of us welcome these furry friends into our hearts and homes.
But did you know that pets measurably boost our health and well-being? A recent study found that 90% of pet owners said their pets helped them cope with stress, especially during the lockdown, and 96% agreed that their pets keep them fit and healthy.
So how do pets boost our health?
Allergies - We all know the signs: itchy skin, red eyes, runny nose. Numerous studies have shown that children exposed to pets from a very young age have a lower risk of childhood asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
Anxiety and stress relief - Aside from the warm welcome home or having your pet curled at your feet, the simple act of petting your animal is shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, creating a moment of peace and calm. Petting your cat or watching your fish swim can also elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, bringing a long-lasting positive mood.
Fitness levels - For those dog and horse owners out there it will come as no surprise that your fitness levels are well above average. There is a far less chance you will suffer from obesity or decreased mobility as you age. (source)
Heart disease - Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. We all know about the benefits of eating healthy and regular exercise to heart health but your pet could be helping to lower those risks as well. The American Heart Association concluded in a recent study that owning a dog may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Better relationships - Walking a dog makes you more likely to engage in positive social interactions, which can help improve confidence and neighborly feelings. Having a constant friend (your dog, cat, lizard or gerbil) can also increase your empathy and lead to stronger relationships with the humans in your life too.
These are just a few of the ways our pets can help boost our health and well-being. If this has convinced you of the advantages of pet ownership don’t forget there are many animal shelters out there with pets waiting for that loving home.