How Animals Benefit Your Health

August 1, 2014

Cats, dogs, and other animals may be cute and fun, but studies have shown that animals may do much more than generate “aww” responses wherever they go. Researchers have found that owning a pet or being around animals can have a number of health benefits:

1) Pets can assist with depression and emotional health or mental health issues. Loneliness and isolation can make depression and other mental health issues worse, but some patients with emotional disorders or mental health issues have a hard time feeling accepted by others. Pets provide a non-judgmental form of companionship as well as physical interaction, which has been shown to help many patients. Some people find that their overall outlook improves when they spend time talking to and interacting with animals. Others find that the symptoms of their disorders improve with pet ownership. For people with anxiety disorders, for example, pets can be soothing and comforting. In some cases, pets also encourage people to head out and meet others, helping to ease loneliness and social anxieties.

2) Being around animals can help lower blood pressure and help prevent heart disease. Stress is a major factor in creating high blood pressure problems and heart disease. However, studies by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that being around pets can reduce blood pressure, can lower pulse rates, and can reduce muscle tension. Studies have also shown that pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those without pets, meaning that they may have better cardiovascular health. The many heart-health benefits may be because pets encourage regular activity and exercise. It may also be because being around animals reduces stress.

3) Being around pets can boost the immune system. By reducing stress levels and by encouraging play and laughter, spending time with animals can improve your overall health and immune system. If you think that pets can trigger allergies, you may be interested to learn that researchers have found that children who grow up with pets have lower instances of allergies than children who don’t grow up interacting with animals.

Of course, owning a pet isn’t just about what you get out of it; it’s important to make sure you have the lifestyle needed to take care of an animal. If you do, however, you may find that owning a pet is more rewarding than you imagined.

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