Benefits of Pets

Feeling more fit, fearless and generally fantastic? You must be a pet owner, researchers say.

Maybe you’ve heard of therapy dogs—those specially trained pooches who visit folks in nursing homes or hospitals. Hospital staff welcome such animals because they see first-hand how a patient cheers up as she’s stroking a pet’s fur and enjoying the one-on-one attention.  New research shows that “everyday people” enjoy similar benefits from the cats, dogs and other pets as companions in their lives, too. Compared to those who don’t have a pet, pet owners are happier, healthier and just better adjusted, research suggests.

Researchers conducted three experiments with a total of almost 500 people. They discovered a great many ways that pets help people. “[We found that] pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners," reports lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D., of Miami University in Ohio.

One of these three studies found that pets can also be a comfort in bad times, as well as good. To find this out, researchers asked participants to write a few paragraphs after being rejected by something or someone. They found that people feel better about the rejection when they write about their pet and when they write about good friends, compared to other topics.

"[T]he present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support," the researchers conclude.

Find out more about these studies here, which were published this summer by the prestigious American Psychological Association.

How does your pet affect your life positively? Share with us in the comments!

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