With over 60 % of Americans owning pets, collectively pouring approximately $41 billion a year into pet care, it is abundantly clear that pets are a major aspect of the fabric of American life. So while we know full well how much we love our pets and consider them members of our families, many do not know that the love and money we pour into our pets is also a great investment in one’s health and longevity.
Statistically, in a study conducted of 4000 cat owners over 10 years, the Minnesota Stroke Institute found that people has a 30% lower chance of dying from heart disease.
Similarly, dogs have been shown to reduce stress, cholesterol, and even blood pressure. Stress not only leads to physical manifestations of disease, but stress also creates anxiety and reduces overall quality of life. Therefore, it naturally follows that if one effectively lowers stress, then overall health and quality of life are generally better.
The benefits of pet ownership for the elderly cannot be overstated. One study observed increased neural activity in the brains of seniors while they walked or interacted with their dogs. Increased neural activity means a more active and functioning brain, making pet ownership a possible way to manage conditions that lead to decreased brain activity, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In children with autism, one study done in Australia observed that the presence of animals can be beneficial for encouraging social interaction with other children. Specifically, the study indicated that social interaction was 55% more likely with autistic children in the presence of animals compared to toys. The study also concluded that the children were twice as likely to smile when in the presence of animals.
So there you have it, our furry friends do not just give us unconditional love and companionship, but also offer the added benefit of helping us to live healthier, longer lives with better quality. There really is no end to the gift our pets are to us, and how lucky we are to have them in our lives.