Animal lovers have long understood that pets enhance the quality of life. For many years, this “fact” was an intuitive knowing, but a 1980 study conducted by Alan Beck, head of Purdue’s Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the School of Veterinary Medicine was the first objective measure showing the survival rate one year after a heart attack was 94% among pet owners, but only 72% for those who did not own pets.
In 2004, Dr. Edward Creagan, oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, began speaking publicly on the benefits of relationships between humans and animals. His studies have concluded that animals not only boost emotional well-being, but they also play a special role in physical health and recovery from illness. Dr. Creagan prescribes pets to his cancer patients to help them cope with the rigors of the disease, according to PAWSitive InterAction, a non-profit group dedicated to celebrating and promoting the human-animal bond.
University of Buffalo in New York conducted a study in 2004 that added to the mounting evidence that pets can be good for health. In the study, 48 male and female stockbrokers with no medical conditions other than hypertension, who lived alone and did not have a pet in the previous five years. Half the stockbrokers took home a cat or dog, while the other half remained alone. Six months later, researchers found the stockbrokers caring for a pet had significantly lower blood pressure than those without pets.
Several studies have concluded that a person’s blood pressure often decreases while they are stroking an animal. In addition, such stroking reduces anxiety and produces a feeling a general well-being. Research also shows that people find talking to animals less stressful than talking to people.
Other research has correlated pet ownership with the following health benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Better psychological health
- Lower heart attack rates
- Higher survival rates following coronary heart disease
- Enhanced self-esteem and social interaction (58% of pet owners say they get to know people and make friends through having pets)
- Better physical stamina from recreational walks with pets
Many of the studies conducted have been about dogs, but the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Research Center presented in 2008 at the American Stroke Association meeting found that people who had previously or currently owned cats were less likely to die from heart attack and other cardiovascular disease. The study examined data from 4,435 people, ranging in age from 30 to 75, participating in ongoing research with the National Health and Nutritional Examination Study. The researchers found that over a 20-year period, participants who had never owned a cat were 40 percent more likely to die from heart attack, and 30 percent more likely to die from any kind of cardiovascular disease.
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton sees everyday first-hand how animals enhance the quality of life. There are hundreds of animals today in our community waiting for forever homes. Please consider adopting a shelter animal into your family so you experience the joy and health benefits that accompany the unconditional love of an animal.
(Submitted by Kelly Marie Weiler from the Humane Society of Greater Dayton)