When it comes to pet ownership, there are a number of proven health benefits for people. On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety. It can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The following are some of the benefits of owning a pet:
1. Relieves Stress - Animals, particularly dogs, are often used to help individuals manage high stress levels. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stressed out medical students, and anxious children are just a few groups that experience less stress in the presence of a pet.
2. Encourages Physical Activity and Being Outdoors - Whether it’s running, throwing a Frisbee, or simply walking, dogs encourage owners to get outside and move. Physical activity paired with being outdoors carries numerous other health benefits. Surrounding oneself with nature has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress. Furthermore, spending time outdoors can raise vitamin D levels, an essential vitamin for combating depression and facilitating a healthy immune system.
3. Boosts Heart Health - Pets can also boost owner’s heart health, perhaps as a result of the increased physical activity that they promote. Dog ownership in particular may reduce cardiovascular risk, likely as a result of owners walking their pets more often than non-dog owners. Owning pets may also be associated with a lower risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, less stress, and lower cholesterol levels, all of which can have a positive impact on the heart.
4. Fights Allergies - Interestingly, pets can serve as a barrier against allergies. Researchers suspect growing up with pets strengthens the immune system and helps children build immunity against pet allergens and bacteria.
5. Promotes Social Interaction - Social connections are essential to our long-term health. Often times, people have a difficult time creating and maintaining relationships. Fortunately, pets serve as a great facilitator for making new connections and building social support, both of which are vital to our health. Dogs have also proven to be particularly helpful in aiding autistic children with forming bonds with their peers.
6. Improves Emotional Health - Researchers have found that pet owners have higher self-esteem, are more extraverted and less lonely, are less preoccupied and are less fearful of everyday life challenges. Pets also help owners feel better after an incident where they reported feeling rejected.
Pets serve as constant reminders to live in the moment because it is the only way they know how to live.