Research shows that caring for an animal can improve your mental and physical well-being—with a few caveats.
Pets: Good for Your Health? | Newsweek Fact or Fiction | Newsweek.com
There’s no doubt that Americans love their pets. A new survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows that more than 57 percent of U.S. households own one or more animals. But can having pets actually provide health benefits? Yes, say experts, as long as you’re not allergic to animals or terrified of them. “Pet ownership is good for your health both physically and psychologically,” says Connecticut psychologist Herbert Nieburg, author of “Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children” (HarperCollins).
Sure, pets provide companionship and unconditional love. But research has shown that they can also help reduce stress and blood pressure in owners, increase longevity in those who’ve had heart attacks, and even relax and improve the appetites of Alzheimer’s patients. “Any disease condition that has a stress-related component to it, we believe pets could ameliorate stress and moderate the situation,” says biologist Erika Friedmann, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. “It’s providing a focus of attention that’s outside of someone’s self. They’re actually letting you focus on them rather than focusing inward on yourself all the time.”