Animals can have a monumental impact on the health and well-being of people, especially those who have health conditions and mental disorders. Studies on how humans and animals interact have shown many positive benefits as well as the negative impact that animals can have on people. While 68% of U.S. households have a pet, how pets interact with their owners can have the potential to be therapeutic, allowing those with severe conditions to be able to communicate with the world.

Positive Aspects of Pet Ownership

Pet ownership has been shown to be exceptionally helpful through various studies. Government funded research provides example study cases explaining these types of benefits and how they vary among demographics. However, many of these studies conclude that the process involved in that correlation is uncertain and that further research would need to take place to have more conclusive answers. While pets do not mend conditions that are present, the support they provide can be used as a coping mechanism to help with difficult life situations.

Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Animals can improve your health by decreasing stress and increasing exercise. 

Some of the physical benefits of pet ownership include:

Exercise Several surveys have shown that adults who own a pet exercise more and participate in the more leisure-time physical activity. Pet owners tend to experience a higher BMI has been associated with pet ownership as well as an association of increased pet ownership for those with diseases such as asthma, high blood pressure, kidney disease, migraines, and rheumatoid arthritis. Results also show that those who have pets tend to exercise more. For instance, people who tend to own a dog walked almost 20 minutes more each week than people who reported that they do not own a pet.

Cardiovascular Health – Owning pets can particularly help when it comes to people who have cardiovascular health issues. According to the American Heart Association, a scientific statement on cardiovascular risk states that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may reduce cardiovascular disease. Researchers believe it is due to increased exercise and reduced levels of stress that these results occur.

Decreased Stress Levels – Hormones such as dopamine and endorphins are typically associated with happiness and well-being. In one study, people who spent at least 30-minute sessions with a dog had decreased levels of cortisol, a hormone which causes stress. By reducing stress levels, this can automatically improve the physical well-being of that person and create a more favorable environment for the body to function.

Fewer Allergies – When it comes to children and the way they interact with animals, the chances of allergies and asthma decrease when children are around pets during their infancy years. Pets can also be used as a preventative measure for adults.

Pain Reduction – Those with chronic pain from disorders and diseases experience significantly reduced pain, especially for those who underwent pet therapy after a major operation. As a result, many people report having to go to the doctor’s office less, resulting in a significant reduction of minor health problems, ultimately leading to healthier physical lifestyle.     

Mental Benefits of Pet Ownership

Some of the mental benefits include:

Give Emotional Comfort – Pets can alleviate worry, provide comfort and mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness.  Pets can intuitively respond to their owners, especially in times of crisis and periods of active symptoms pets, ultimately providing a safe environment by regulating emotions, managing stress, and helping their owners cope with severe life events.

Provide Protection – Pets can distract their owner’s attention from unsettling experiences, such as hearing voices, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. By lessening the negative impact, pets can protect from trauma for their owners.

A Sense of Self-Worth – Many owners report that having a pet gives them a sense of identity, self-worth, and meaning. Their pets help increase interest in hobbies and provide them with a reason to participate in occupation and social roles in society.

Improve Conversation – By improving their mental health, pets can create a sense of community by improving the quality of interaction. Owners find it easier to venture into social situations when their pet is present. Pets, especially dogs, can teach children greater social and environmental awareness by giving them the space to speak without feeling judged or feeling like a burden.

Negative Aspects of Pet Ownership:

Health Care professionals will generally state that any negative impacts from pet ownership will most likely result from zoonotic diseases, which among domestic house pets is considered to be uncommon. The biggest burden is stated to be among farmers in developing countries. However, that risk appears uncommon and small in comparison to the benefits that come with pet ownership.

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