By: Sia Minhas, Contributing Writer
Pets are a person’s best friend. They are reliable, goofy, and sweet companions. However, many people aren’t aware of the mental and physical health benefits that pets give. MHA published an article regarding pets and their correlation to owners’ mental health. Steven Feldman, President of the organization HABRI and author of the article writes, “Positive human-animal interaction is related to the changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. Science demonstrates that these biological responses have measurable clinical effects.” The CDC writes about the numerous clinical effects of owning a pet, including “Decreased blood pressure, Decreased cholesterol levels, Decreased triglyceride levels, Decreased feelings of loneliness, Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, Increased opportunities for socialization”. The health benefits are vast but what exactly are they and why do pets have such an effect on humans?
Physical Health Benefits
There is a lot of care that goes into owning a pet and that includes walking them, playing with them, and keeping them active. Taking care of these pets can have an indirect effect on our own physical health. For one, pets keep you active, especially in regards to cardiovascular health, since pets need to be walked often and taken outdoors regularly. Harvard published an article on the benefits dogs have solely on someone’s heart: “Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this ‘pet effect.’ Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.” However, it is important to acknowledge there isn’t a defined correlation between pets and physical health, but many studies have shared that there is a correlation between pet owners and physical health.
Pets And Mental Health
The US NIH discussed the mental health support that pets give their owners. Many times, people believe that only service animals are capable of providing mental health support but all pets can provide their owners comfort and help decrease stress, increase mood, keep you healthy and happy, and more. “Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician, and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She continues, “Their attention is focused on the person all the time.” Many times, we, as humans, have a difficult time caring for ourselves or prioritizing ourselves before others. That’s another reason why pets are so incredible for our mental and physical health. They love us and understand us, they are focused on their owners/humans.
Pets are extremely caring and immensely beneficial to the physical and mental health of their owners. They can decrease stress levels and help with your mood. However, this shouldn’t be the sole reason someone gets a pet. Pets need to be taken care of as well, just as much as humans. They are responsibilities much like anything else in life. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, it is important to take into account how much work goes into it. This includes walking them, feeding them, keeping them healthy (veterinarian visits), and more. There are so many pets waiting to be adopted, take the time to read up on pets in shelters and all the benefits they provide as companions on the Human Society Organization’s web page.
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