If you’re on our site, then this article from TIME comes as no surprise. If you own a pet, you already know that it can be so wonderful for your mental health. Pets make us happy, they make us feel loved, and they give us purpose. I guess a few science-backed studies to prove it are just icing on the cake.
We obviously love our pets. 95% of owners think of their pet as a member of the family, and almost half even buy them birthday presents. But our pets also love us back, too. And this love shows in how it affects our wellbeing. People with pets have lower blood pressure, heart rate, and heart-disease risk than non-pet owners.
The positive effect of pets is so supported that many hospitals have even implemented pet programs to help patients with anything from anxiety to Alzheimer’s. “I don’t know of any major children’s hospital that doesn’t have at least some kind of animal program,” said Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.
Here are some examples of the cutting-edge studies being done:
Researchers studied whether petting rabbits, turtles, or their toy counterparts would have an effect on stressed-out adults. Unsurprisingly, they found that the groups that got to pet a living creature, whether it was shelled or furry, had reduced anxiety.
A 2016 study on crickets found that even these creepy crawlies can have a positive effect. Elderly people were given 5 crickets to take care of over the course of 8 weeks. At the end of the trial, the researchers found that those who had been entrusted with the crickets were less depressed than the control group.
Horses make great therapy animals, and there are plenty of studies to prove it. This one showed that simply the act of grooming a horse and leading it around a pen helped reduce PTSD symptoms in children and young adults.
Researchers from Purdue University found that Alzheimer’s patients ate more and had better nutrition when they ate near aquariums with brightly-colored fish. Focusing their attention on the fish also helped them be more attentive, less prone to pacing, and less lethargic.
Even if dogs can’t fully understand us, research has shown that reading to them can actually be helpful for children with reading difficulties. When children read to a trained dog and handler, they showed fewer anxiety symptoms, their attitudes changed, and their skills improved.
Pets can work wonders for children with autism. This study showed that when autistic children had a guinea pig in the classroom, they were more social, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress.
These are just a few of the thousands of studies out there that show that pets are actually good for more than just the occasional snuggle. So next time you’re with your precious pet, make sure to give them an extra pat for being such a wonderful and beneficial part of your life.
Top photo credit: Goldilocks and the Wolf Photography/Facebook
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