Pets offer us unconditional love, trust, and all the snuggles we can handle. But did you know that having pets at home has health benefits that go beyond how cute and cuddly they are? From improving hearth health, depression, and even autism, pets impact our well-being more than you might think.
They help keep depression at bay. When you're responsible for taking care of someone else-even if that someone is a dog or a cat-your mental health benefits. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) found that having a pet routinely helped people manage symptoms of depression. A 2016 study found pets helped people with long-term mental health struggles by giving them a sense of control, providing a routine and security, and that pets promote exercise and can even disrupt suicidal thoughts.
Read about 7 things your pet wants and needs
They make us more social. Another HABRI study found pets help their owners connect with people around them. People with pets are more likely to get to know their neighbors, and 40% reported receiving social support from people they met through their pet. People with pets are more likely to strike up a conversation with other pet owners, while others can compliment someone's pet as a springboard to launch a conversation.
They're good for our hearts. People with pets, especially dogs, are less likely to have cardiovascular issues. According to Harvard University, people with dogs have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, are less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and are more likely to survive a heart attack. Dogs have even been known to alert their owners when they were having cardiac distress.
They relieve stress. Studies have shown that simply being in the same room as a pet can lower the stress hormone cortisol. Petting cats has been known to lower blood pressure, and owning a cat can reduce risk of a stroke by a third.
They can prevent allergies. Exposing children to pets can actually help support their health. According to a study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, children who were exposed to pets before their first birthday were less likely to develop allergies to that animal, as well as hay fever and asthma. "In the first year of life, babies who are exposed to dogs in the household are more likely not to have allergies, asthma, and fewer upper respiratory infections," Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine told Health.com. "If exposed at an early age to dander and allergens, we may be less reactive to them over time."
Read about managing allergies to pets
They can help manage chronic pain. A study of 295 therapy dogs found therapy dog visits in an outpatient setting "provided significant reduction in pain and emotional distress for chronic pain patients." The therapy dog visits also improved feelings of emotional distress and promoted feelings of well-being in family, friends, and staff.
They help manage autism. A study found that after 10 minutes of playing with Guinea pigs, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who were experiencing high levels of social stress had their anxiety lowered. Some people with autism find it easier to connect with animals than with people, and pets allow them to foster those connections long term.