You’ve almost certainly heard how pets help their owners live longer — but is it true? A recent study even went so far as to say that adults with both children and pets actually preferred their furry friends to their own biological creations! That’s saying a lot, which is why so many people seek companionship through pets instead of people. Pets are less likely to hurt your feelings. Pets are there when you need them.
But will they ultimately make you happier and healthier?
The answer is a fairly resounding yes — and thankfully this fact has been studied and proven by science over and over. While these studies show that taking care of a pet can boost mood and happiness in addition to relieving stress and lowering blood pressure, there are less obvious reasons for these biological changes we experience.
First and foremost, having a pet means more exercise, and exercise is great for changing your outlook on life. Without consistent and routine exercise, our brains don’t release chemicals that make us happy. Studies show that those of us who own dogs are much more likely to be physically active — and achieve recommended amounts of exercise — than those who don’t own them.
The results of the study seem minuscule: owning a dog means you get about a half-hour more exercise than someone who doesn’t own a dog. While that might not seem like a big deal, every little bit counts, and even small amounts of walking can make a big difference in overall health (which is not to say you should be content with daily walks as your only source of exercise, because you most definitely require more).
Nearly half of the participants in the aforementioned study admitted that their pet was their best friend. While it’s okay to have a pet — and be completely in love — there’s no replacement for real, human to human bonds and relationships. Studies have also showed that socializing can have a real effect on wellbeing. That’s part of the reason why therapy can get people through difficult or traumatic experiences.
What we really need is someone who will listen. Pet owners are much less likely to feel lonely. Even though pets aren’t people, pet owners are still more likely to feel a strong sense of social support than non-pet owners. It’s okay if the listener is a pet, but remember: we need people too.
Oh, and one last thing: with all these benefits kept in mind, it can be a good thing for kids to grow up with this extra sense of support!