6 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

As you read this article, is there a furry friend curled up on the couch next to you, or sitting at your feet? There’s a good chance. Pet ownership comes with a lot of responsibility, that’s for sure, but research suggests it can also come with significant health benefits. It should be kept in mind, however, that the vast majority of research on the effects of pets on human health are observational studies, which means that they suggest a link between these two factors rather than a relationship. from cause to effect.

Read on to discover six ways having a pet can help you stay healthier and happier.

1. Pets promote social connection

Having a dog allows you to get outside, which naturally leads you to interact and engage with your community on a regular basis. For example, pets can be used to break ice. For many, pets serve as social capital in neighborhoods.

This can be especially meaningful for introverts, or people who have difficulty striking up conversations with new people, for example. Observational studies have found that walking a dog in public increases the frequency with which we receive social interactions and social acknowledgments, such as friendly looks and smiles.

2. Pet ownership is linked to lower blood pressure

While having a pet doesn’t license you to eat poorly or take health risks, the good news is that pet ownership is associated with better heart health. One study looked at pet ownership and cardiovascular reactivity, a potential marker of heart disease risk, and found that people with pets had lower baseline heart rates and lower blood pressure. Pet owners also experienced smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure during times of stress, and these increases returned to normal more quickly thereafter, suggests the study, which analyzed the owners of dogs and cats. Another randomized controlled study, this one published in Hypertension in April 2018, indicates that pet ownership was associated with lower blood pressure responses to mental stress.

3. Dogs can help boost your physical activity

Dog owners know what to do. As soon as you wake up, there is one essential thing you need to take care of: take the dog out to do its business. Clearly, your commitment requires you to move your body. Many owners who would otherwise do little or no physical activity, despite their doctor’s recommendations, end up getting plenty of exercise simply by caring for their dog, playing with it, and walking it. Depending on how many stops you make, walking your dog for just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can help you get closer to the recommendation of at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

4. Pets can help prevent loneliness

Even if you’re in a relationship or live with a house full of roommates, loneliness can creep in, but having a pet can help, especially for people who live alone. For example, if you work remotely, you know it can be soothing to have your dog or cat curled up next to you while you type on your laptop. This company can be beneficial for your mental health. There’s no solid scientific research on the subject, but, anecdotally at least, it seems pet owners are quick to attribute a lack of loneliness to their furry companion. That said, a study published in December 2021 in PLoS One examined psychological markers among dog owners and non-owners during the COVID-19 pandemic using a validated online survey. Researchers found that dog owners reported feeling significantly more social support (and less loneliness), which they believed was due to their pets. They also reportedly experienced fewer symptoms of depression than non-dog owners, although they found no difference in overall anxiety or happiness scores.

5. Petting your four-legged friend boosts feel-good hormones

Have you ever wondered why you pet your pet, scratch its ears or stroke your cat’s belly? Sure, your pet appreciates being pampered by its owner, but some research suggests there’s a hormonal benefit to the person petting it. For example, a small study, published in October 2017 in Frontiers in Psychology, found that petting dogs was linked to higher levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Another small past study of participants paired with a new dog suggests that Fido’s presence was linked to reduced cortisol levels when tested for stress in an unfamiliar setting. Petting your furry friend can stimulate the production of oxytocin and endorphins, which he says can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and social isolation.

6. Pets can help promote mental health

Pets promote social and emotional connections, which can have a positive effect on mood and overall mental health. Pets can be a source of support for people with mental health issues, an observational study has shown. Research seems to support the idea that pets can support mental health. A large review, published in February 2018 in BMC Psychiatry, looked at 17 studies done on pet ownership in people living with mental health conditions. The review suggests that pet ownership had multiple potential benefits for this group. For example, owning a dog was found to be beneficial for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder, and owning a pet was more generally linked to better emotional stability. Owning a pet was also associated with an increased sense of meaning and usefulness.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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