The power of pets
The physical and mental health benefits of having a furry friend.
Every pet-owner knows how rewarding it is to have, love and care for a pet, but did you know having a pet is good for your health?
The history of human/animal connection is almost as long as the history of humanity itself. Companion, care and helper animals are a part of our evolution. The bond between animals and humans is undeniable.
The modern family pet is the ultimate expression of the human/animal bond.
They bring us endless hours of fun, entertainment, joy and love – even on our darkest days.
This unrelenting source of joy and pleasure is probably the most studied aspect of the human-animal connection. It certainly accounts for many of the mood boosting, stress and depression-busting effects of owning a pet.
What are the mental health benefits of owning a pet?
Having a pet reduces loneliness, improves our sense of purpose and increases feelings of love, belonging and contentment. Combined, these support a calmer, more centred and confident sense of self, a more positive outlook and greater sense of ability.
These feelings naturally foster better mental wellbeing, especially among older adults and children.
Pets improve our emotional health on a deeper level.
Interacting with our pets releases positive endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, and reduces levels of circulating stress hormones.
In the short term, this combination can immediately enhance your mood. Over time, this favourable hormone balance helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and risk for depression.
Pet ownership – dogs in particular – is consistently related to lower incidence and risk of depression, and pet therapy is even used to improve conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia for the elderly and ADHD in children.
There are physical health benefits of owning a pet too.
Some of these are also due to more favourable stress vs pleasure hormones, which creates better conditions for a healthy heart, with reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Pet owners are more likely to exercise too, which has further benefits for heart health. Pet owners are less likely to suffer obesity and more likely to enjoy better general health.
Exercising pets outdoors is another mind and mood boost. The natural environment is known to increase positive emotions, while walking with pets often becomes a social interaction also – improving our sense of community and human connection.
When it comes to our kids, pets have even more to give!
Children who grow up with pets are less likely to suffer from certain allergies and are less prone to anxiety.
Kids are easily comforted and calmed by their pets, who give them an opportunity to develop compassion, caring and responsibility. This is done in a loving and highly rewarding relationship, helping kids build positive connections and relationships more easily too.
As a parent, one of the best benefits is that pets strengthen the bond between kids and parents. Our pets are truly 100% part of the family.
Pets give families a way to interact and connect, to play together, to laugh and love together.
Now wonder we love them so much!
Happy National Pet Day! We hope you are loving yours!
Show your pet some love this Winter!
References used in this article:
Biswas, S. (2019). The Benefits of Pets for Human Health, Psychology and Behavioral Science International Journal, 13(3), pp.1-3, DOI: 10.19080/PBSIJ.2019.13.555862
Hussein, S., M., Soliman, W., S. Kalifa, A. (2021). Benefits of Pet Ownership, A review based on health perspectives, Journal of Internal Medicine and Emergency Research, 2(1), pp. 1-9
McConnell, A., Brown, C., Shoda, T., Stayton, L., & Martin, C. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 101(6), 1239-1252. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024506
Smith, B. (2012). The ‘pet effect.’ Health related aspects of companion animal ownership, Australian Family Physician, 41(6), pp. 439-442