Lowering cholesterol, preventing allergies in kids, relieving depression and loneliness. Pets can do that? Really. My investigation into the benefits of pet adoption started after I walked into a pet store two days before Christmas last year. You can see the results of that visit in the photo of me and my daughter along with Lucy and Ethel.
As for the investigation of the upside of pet ownership—I was only looking for the upside–here’s what I found.
Pet parents live longer
A Swedish study following 34 million people ages 40-80 for 12 years found dog owners lived longer than people who didn’t have dogs. For people living alone, which is exactly what many retirees do, owning a dog can decrease their risk of premature death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%, when compared to single individuals without a pet, according to the study. Chances of a heart attack were also found to be 11% lower.
Pet parents have less stress
Pets can have a calming effect relieving stress in humans. Researcher Rebecca Johnson, associate director at the Center for Animal Wellness, Missouri University College of Veterinary Medicine reports that a few minutes of stroking our pet dog prompts a release of many “feel good” hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. In addition, petting our pooches results in decreased levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol, the adrenal chemical responsible for regulating appetite and cravings for carbohydrates.
Pet parents aren’t lonely
Indeed, a survey by the American Veterinary Medicine Association found that nearly half of respondents considered their pets to be companions; only about 2 percent considered them to be property. In fact, Alan Beck, director of the Center for Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, found in a study that 97 percent of people talk to their pets. “The other 3 percent lied,” he quips.
Pet parents exercise more
Getting Fido out of the house gets owners out too. Walking them means owners not only exercise but enjoy sunshine (sometimes) and meet other dog walkers. Those walks can also help owners stick to a regular exercise routine and slim down. Disclaimer, I am neither on a walking schedule nor slimmer since adopting Lucy and Ethel.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta sums up some recent pet research in a short video you can see here. It’s worth watching.
By all accounts, I should live to be 100 now that I have not one, but two pets. I’ll keep you posted.