Beyond Companionship: How Pets Can Help Your Health

Humans and animals share an extremely important bond. For centuries the two have coexisted together and studies have shown that animals can provide much more than just companionship. Spending time with animals or keeping them as pets is associated with a number of health benefits especially those concerned with mental, social, and physiologic health issues.

Over the past 25 years numerous specific scientific studies have been carried out which suggest that animal companionship can improve human cardiovascular health, reduce stress levels, decrease the feeling of loneliness and depression and ease social interactions among people who choose to have pets.

Physiological benefits
Any form of interaction with animals whether active or passive has been shown to lower anxiety levels and reduce the likelihood and severity of stress related conditions. It’s believed that blood pressure can be reduced to a level that is equal to an individual changing to a low salt diet or cutting out alcohol by owning a dog. The act of petting a dog or observing fish in an aquarium has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, plasma cholesterol and plasma triglycerides as well as reduced heart disease. Here, your body goes through a physical change, in which the human stress hormone, cortisol is reduced while the levels of serotonin which are associated with well-being are increased. Naturally, the beneficial effects of owning pets maybe increased by additional exercise often associated with pet ownership.

Psychological benefits
Studies have found that pets play an important supportive role and can help with psychological health issues such as reducing the effects of loneliness and depression. Pets can help those who have recently faced trauma or adversity cope better than those without pets as the companionship provides added security helping to lessen the depression. Pets have also been shown to reduce stress levels in the workplace and help people improve their productivity and organisation.

Social benefits
Pets can often help people overcome shyness, develop trust and improve their social skills and generally act as a social catalyst. Simply going for a walk with your dog is likely to lead to conversation with other like minded dog walkers. Those with disabilities who are accompanied by a guide or service dog while out in public generally receive more positive social interaction than those without.

While there is still some disagreement about the human health benefits of animal companionship it is generally agreed that pets of all types have positive effects on human health. Whether the effects are physiological, psychological or social it is hard to deny that humans are at their happiest when surrounded by friends and family and the same goes for pets.

This was a guest post provided by York Vet supplies.

 
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