Reading Time: 2 minutes

Why do people get pets? Is it because they are there for you when nobody else is, the way they make you laugh, or perhaps they offer a way to meet other like minded people? In fact, research indicates it is all of these and more as numerous studies have found that there are many reasons why having a pet is beneficial to our health including physiological, psychological and social benefits.

The physiological benefits of owning a pet include decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Owning a pet, especially a dog can increase one’s physical activity and fitness. Having a pet can help with allergies and improve the immune system (Smith, 2012).  Pets can even lower stress levels in the body and in fact in a study by Siegel (1990) it was found that pet owners compared to non pet owners, had less visits to the doctor due to lower stress levels. Even the simple act of petting, stroking or watching an animal can be used as a way to reduce stress levels.

Having a pet can improve one’s mood and reduce the risk of depression as owners are distracted from their everyday stresses by focusing on caring for their animal. Animals are used as a form of therapy for individuals with a mental health issue, an illness or disability to improve the individual’s well-being. A pet can also create companionship and reduce loneliness and isolation especially amongst the elderly (Knight & Edwards, 2008). Owning a pet can be beneficial for the family as a whole especially for the development of children as caring for an animal gives them a sense of responsibility and teaches them to be kind (Herzog, 2011).

Not only can owning a pet have both physiological and psychological benefits, it can also have a social benefit.  Having a pet can be used as a way to socialize with other pet owners and bond over a common interest. It is used as a way for elderly people to communicate and interact with one another (Knight & Edwards, 2008).

Although there are many health benefits to owning a pet, having an animal can come with its challenges. It takes a lot of time and energy caring for an animal, therefore it is essential that when getting a pet it is for the right reasons and in the best interests of both the owner/s and the pet itself. However, the benefits of having a pet can come with its rewards and possibly outweigh any difficulties of caring for an animal.

Alicia is a Masters Graduate from Ireland and is currently on an internship at Willingness Hub. She has an interest in child and adolescent mental health and how it affects the family as a whole.

References

Herzog, H. (2011). The impact of pets on human health and psychological well-being: Fact, fiction, or hypothesis? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(4), 236-239. doi:10.1177/0963721411415220

Knight, S., & Edwards, V. (2008). In the company of wolves: The physical, social, and psychological benefits of dog ownership. Journal of Aging and Health, 20(4), 437-455. doi:10.1177/0898264308315875

Siegel, J. M. (1990). Stressful life events and use of physician services among the elderly: The moderating role of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(6), 1081-1086. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.58.6.1081

Smith, B. (2012). The ‘pet effect’: Health related aspects of companion animal ownership. Australian Family Physician, 41(6), 439-42. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ucc.idm.oclc.org/docview/1021131076?accountid=14504

Alicia is a Masters Graduate from Ireland and is currently on an internship at Willingness Hub. She has an interest in child and adolescent mental health and how it affects the family as a whole.