Pets can provide companionship and joy. During difficult times especially, many people benefit from having a pet, but they also bring a number of health benefits.
Here are some of the ways having a pet can improve your health:
Lower risk of cognitive decline
Researchers have found that owning a pet for more than five years could slow the rate of cognitive decline in older adults.
The study analyzed the data of 1,400 people and found that their word recall, numerical counting, subtraction, and other cognitive skills declined at a slower rate if they had a pet.
According to the authors of the study, “Our results suggest that pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.
As stress can negatively affect cognitive function, the potential stress-buffering effects of pet ownership could provide a plausible reason for our findings.
A companion animal can also increase physical activity, which could benefit cognitive health. That said, more research is needed to confirm our results and identify underlying mechanisms for this association.”
Better heart health
Scientists have also found that pet owners have better heart health overall than non-owners. In fact, heart attack patients could survive longer if they have a pet.
Less stress and anxiety
Another benefit of pet ownership is that it can reduce stress and anxiety, and it can also alleviate the symptoms of other mental health problems like depression.
Studies have found that high blood pressure was less common in people with a pet and had a better response to stressful situations. Playing with an animal can elevate serotonin and dopamine, and this has a calming effect.
In addition to this, many pet owners – especially dog owners – get more exercise and spend more time outdoors, which has mental health benefits.
Stronger immune system
A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that children growing up with animals in the home had a lower risk of allergies and had stronger immune systems.
One researcher, James E. Gern said, “The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided.
However, he added that “Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system.”
In the study, it was discovered that. In homes with a dog, young children were less likely to have a pet allergy or eczema, and they showed signs of having a stronger immune system.