Pet owners know the importance of having an animal companion and its positive impact upon the human psyche. Non pet owners may never understand this wonderful feeling of comfort and pure joy. Fortunately, the scientific community has recognized the healing properties that animals bring to humans and are incorporating animal therapy in many nursing homes and places where these wonderful animals are needed.
Medical benefits for having animals
At one time the studies were not strong because it was hard to tease out other lifestyle contributions from animal studies and make a direct correlation. Modern studies are more robust and show a much clearer correlation than every before and now studies have shown the psychological and physiological impact animals have on humans. One study in 1992, showed that animal owners actually had lower levels of bad cholesterol, plasma triglycerides, and lower blood pressure.These levels were noted in pet owners even though they had other bad lifestyle habits such as overeating, and smoking.
An additional report published in 2002, pointed out that the psychological affects of having animals also showed a drop in pain reported in animal owners. Research such as this clearly shows the correlation between mental and physical health. Dog owners tend to exercise more because they walk their dogs and therefore both human and animal companion get much needed exercise. Exercise has also been noted to reduce pain in sufferers.
The improvement of social interactions among pet owners
Research shows that pets can improve the social interactions of humans. Animals can give pet owners some much needed self confidence and help them overcome shyness. As a very shy teenager, I found that walking my dog was a great way to meet new people who would stop to pet the dog and start a conversation. It helped me to break out of my shyness. Similarly, having animals can also help develop trust issues, especially in the case of walking the dog and talking to strangers.
Animals at the workplace
Studies have also shown that employees who are allowed to bring their animals with them to work show overall lower stress levels and better job performance levels than their non pet owner counterparts.
Animal companions and the psychological health of seniors
Furthermore, it is well known that the elderly benefit greatly from animal companions. A 1990 study, which surveyed 938 American medicare recipients, found that the seniors who had pets made fewer doctors visits than those who did not. Other studies collaborate these findings and indicate better physical and psychological health among the elderly.
These studies showed the psychological well being is far greater among senior pet owners. There are less reports of loneliness and depression. Nursing care statistics point to less distribution of medication and a cut of 50 percent in related health care costs among seniors who are allowed access their own animals or therapy dogs.
Psychological Implications for pet companions
It appears that humans find purpose in caring for and loving animals and even the loneliest of individuals do better psychologically when they know they have an animal that loves them unconditionally. Depressed individuals find purpose in life. They know that the are responsible for the love and care of their animals.
The medical community is now using pet therapy as a feasible and important therapy for depression,, pain management and other aspects of physical and mental health.