12 studies that prove pets are good for your health
If you have pets you already know the joy and love they bring to your life. Now science is confirming just how good they really are for you — both mentally and physically.
How do they help? One theory is that pets boost our oxytocin levels. Also known as the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin enhances social skills, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, boosts immune function and raises tolerance for pain. It also lowers stress, anger and depression.
No surprise then that keeping regular company with a dog or cat (or another beloved beast) appears to offer all these same benefits and more. Read on to discover the many impressive ways a pet can make you healthier, happier and more resilient.
1. Pets help you live longer, healthier lives
Having a dog is associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes, according to a 2017 study that followed 3.4 million people in Sweden. Researchers studied men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 and followed their health records (and whether they owned a dog) for about a dozen years. The study found that for people who lived alone, owning a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33 percent and their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, compared to single people without a pet. Chances of having a heart attack were also 11 percent lower.
2. Pets alleviate allergies and boost immune function
One of your immune system’s jobs is to identify potentially harmful substances and unleash antibodies to ward off the threat. But sometimes it overreacts and misidentifies harmless stuff as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Think red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose and wheezing.
You’d think that having pets might trigger allergies by kicking up sneeze-and-wheeze-inducing dander and fur. But it turns out that living with a dog or cat during the first year of life not only cuts your chances of having pet allergies in childhood and later on but also lowers your risk of asthma. A new 2017 study found that newborns who live with cats have a lower risk of childhood asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.