Friendly Pets Open Doors to New Friendships

A single research study that’s been going on since the 1920s shows that pets can make people happier. That’s not really news to those of us who love our pets. But the other real benefits of a pet might surprise you.

Pets do make us feel better, but not because they help people live longer. Instead, they can open doors to activities and people—and these are what can help us live longer. Those are just a few of the findings of a research study called “The Longevity Project,” reported by scientists with the University of California, Riverside, in March 2011. The study wasn’t focused on pets alone, but included pets because they are such an important part of many children’s and adults’ lives.

For the study, researchers followed 1,500 children as they grew up in the 1920s and beyond. Analyzing years of data about how long these folks lived, they found these results, among others:

  • Pets can make people happier or feel better about themselves, compared to those who don’t have pets. But pets are not a substitute for friends.
  • People who feel loved and cared for also have a better sense of well-being, researchers conclude. That, I think, can include your loving pet.


  • “The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others,” they report.  And when it comes to pets, we conclude, they can be a great door-opener, ice-breaker or entre to get to know other people.
  • Researchers also report that the people you spend time with impacts the type of person you become — healthy or unhealthy.

And we say: the people that your pet is likely to help you meet—at dog and cat shows, pet clubs, dog parks, while walking around the block and even at the vet—are other pet lovers who are kind, loving and giving. Just nice folks, like you!

Learn more about these and other findings of The Longevity Project.

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