All pet owners that you know probably say this a lot – my pet has vastly improved my life and does wonders for my physical and mental well-being. Coming from owners of pets, this is obvious, but what if we told you that now there is ample evidence to back this up too?
A study found ‘dog ownership is linked to improved heart health for humans’. Why is this important?
Because heart disease is one of the leading causes of deaths, globally. While this is just one study focusing on only one aspect of human healthcare, it does raise the important
question of how pets can positively affect human longevity. Another study called the ‘blue zone’ has focused on factors affecting longevity for over a decade. Nine factors have been identified as increasing lifespan in the communities studied, and many of these factors are increased by pets.
Here are some of the other ways in which pets can add years to your life and improve your overall well-being.
They force you to move, everyday
A lot of focus on pets comes from the fact that they help you improve your health when you walk them. But it’s not just limited to walking. Anyone who owns a pet will tell you there are many other incidental physical activities associated with pet ownership. There’s feeding, cleaning, bathing, and sometimes even running after them. This reduces prolonged periods of sitting and is a major factor in reducing lifestyle related diseases.
They give you a reason to do something
If nothing else, pets will give you a reason to get out of beds in the morning. This has been proven to be particularly important for people experiencing poor health due to old age, or for people with mental illness, or other chronic diseases. Some research also suggests that pets could be protective against suicide. That is because pets are normally seen as reliant on their owners functionally and emotionally. That reduces the risk of feeling useless or unwanted; a key reason for suicide.
They help you de-stress daily
This one is a no-brainer. Interaction with pets can reduce stress massively. There is also scientific evidence that petting an animal could even reduce heart rates, and even improve your quality of sleep.
Given all of this, the role that a pet plays
in improved mental health, even more than physical health, is probably where
the key to longevity lies. This is because, according to a study, ‘improved
mental well-being is known to extend life expectancy, especially for population
groups vulnerable to poor social connectedness.’
It’s time we acknowledge our pets’ contribution
to saving lives. They are not just playthings, but living, breathing creatures,
who not only contribute to scientific studies, but also add more richness to
our lives and make them worth living.