We all love our pets, but what many of us don’t realize is how good they can be for our mental health.
Beyond just having the companionship of a dog, cat, or any other animal you chose, pets often encourage more social and positive behaviors in us. Just a few years ago, the American Psychological Association released a study that showed thinking about one’s pets is as beneficial as thinking about one’s friends.
Three experiments within the study provided profound results: People who have pets have better self-esteem, are more physically fit, are less lonely, are more conscientious and extroverted, and are less fearful and preoccupied than those who don’t have pets. According to the lead researcher Allen R. McConnel, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio, pet owners generally had better mental health than others.
Other data shows that not only does owning a pet increase overall well-being, but also the longevity of life. An Australian study consisting of 5,741 participants found the pet owners had lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet-owners.
But wait, there’s more! This remained true even in cases where both groups had similar unhealthy lifestyles involving smoking and high-fat diets. We’re not encouraging taking up smoking or having a poor diet, but this just goes to show the benefits having a pet can bring you.
Another study shows that pets can also be helpful for people suffering from heart problems. An article published in the American Journal of Cardiology explained a study in which researchers kept track of more than 400 patients who suffered from a heart attack. More than one year after the patients were released, pet owners had a significantly higher survival rate than non-pet owners. The researchers who studied them guessed that the social support and bond that pets provide reduce their stress, which can be a major contributor to cardiovascular problems.
So if you were wondering whether or not you should get a pet, here’s a good reason to do so: The mental health benefits are better than you could imagine.