Five health benefits you get from your pet

Category: Healthier

Did you know that owning a pet positively influences your general physical and mental health? This might be one reason why so many New Zealanders own pets.

Pet with man in wheelchair

Did you know that owning a pet positively influences your general physical and mental health? This might be one reason why so many New Zealanders own pets[1].

Studies show that owning pets in your older years can delay ageing. This is due to the increase of physical exercise, social interaction and keeping the brain mentally active that comes with the responsibility of caring for a pet[2]. For those over 60, pets have many positive influences on health. Here are five of them:

You exercise more

In 2014 the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) released a research review about pets and their health influence on older people[3]. According to this review, pet owners move more. This is especially true if you’re a dog owner, because you tend to go out and walk more than those without pets. The extra dog walking helps you meet the daily-recommended exercise quota for your age group[4].

Your stress levels are reduced

If you are a person who is easily affected by stress, caring for a pet will help reduce stress. According to the IFA:

  1. The quiet companionship your pet gives you helps reduce the blood pressure because of an increase in neurochemicals linked to relaxation and bonding[5].
  2. The added activity pets bring to your life helps reduce high cholesterol in your body[6].
  3. A pet can provide structure and a sense of purpose to each day, and this feeling reduces general stress levels in your body[7].

You stay more agile

According to Dana Casciotti, PhD and Diana Zuckerman, PhD your physical capability improves when you care for a pet[8]. You become better at activities such as climbing stairs, bending, kneeling, preparing a meal, bathing and dressing yourself. Even daily memory tasks such as “remembering to take your medicine” have been shown to improve when you’re caring for a pet.

You become more socially active

Did you know that your pet makes you meet new people. An Australian study[9] states that more than fifty per cent of dog owners and nearly half of pet owners say that they meet people in their neighbourhood because of their pet. Eighty per cent of the participating dog owners said they talk to other people when they are out walking their dog. You might also be happy to hear that as a pet owner you have a stronger social network, especially during a time of crisis, compared to non-pet owners and you are also more inclined to exchange favours with your neighbours and be involved in community issues.

Your emotional health improves

If social engagement is not your thing, you can still benefit emotionally from a pet. Research suggests why pets are referred to as companions because their company minimises feelings of loneliness[10]. Your beloved pet might also boost your emotional health by increasing your self-esteem, life satisfaction and positive moods[11].



 

[1]. http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6332-dog-and-cat-owners-and-pet-care-services-buyers-new-zealand-october-2014-201507092354

[2] http://www.gleneira.vic.gov.au/Resident-services/Pets/Benefits-of-pet-ownership

[3] https://www.ifa-fiv.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Companion-Animals-and-Older-Persons-Full-Report-Online.pdf

[4] Cutt HE, Knuiman MW and Giles-Corti B (2008). Does Getting a Dog Increase Recreational Walking? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 5:17. Australia.

[5] Filan, SL and Llewellyn-Jones RH (2006). Animal-Assisted Therapy for Dementia: A review of the literature. International Psychogeriatrics 18 (4): 597-611.

[6] Anderson WP, Reid CM and Jennings GL (1992). Pet Ownership and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease. Medical Journal of Australia 157: 298-301.

[7] Raina P, Waltner-Toews D, Bonnett B, Woodward C and Abernathy T (1999). Influence of Companion Animals on the Physical and Psychological Health of Older People: An analysis of a one-year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Geriatric Society 47 (3), 323–329. Canada.

[8] https://www.ifa-fiv.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Companion-Animals-and-Older-Persons-Full-Report-Online.pdf

[9] Wood L, Giles-Corti B and Bulsara M (2005). The Pet Connection: Pets as a conduit for social capital? Social Science and Medicine 61 (6): 1159–1173. Australia.

[10] El-Alayli A, Lystad AL, Webb SR, Hollingsworth SL and Ciolli JL (2006). Reigning Cats and Dogs: A pet-enhancement bias and its link to pet attachment, pet-selfsimilarity, self-enhancement, and well-being. Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology 28 (2): 131-143. USA.

[11] El-Alayli A, Lystad AL, Webb SR, Hollingsworth SL and Ciolli JL (2006). Reigning Cats and Dogs: A pet-enhancement bias and its link to pet attachment, pet-selfsimilarity, self-enhancement, and well-being. Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology 28 (2): 131-143. USA.




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