According to studies conducted all over the world, it is in fact true that pet owners live longer. This is so widely accepted in many parts of the medical community that doctors sometimes recommend pets to their patients, and pet therapy is a growing offering at places like retirement homes and shelters for abused children. There are a number of theories about what interaction with animals helps people to live longer, and many pet parents have a few of their own.
Many people find that sharing their lives with animals can feel quite rewarding, as any pet owner can tell you. Evidence suggests that in addition to just being pleasurable, pet ownership may also have tangible health benefits. For people who are unable to own pets, pet therapy services can convey some of these benefits, especially when pet therapy is engaged in on a regular basis.
Surveys of pet owners have shown that people with pets tend to have lower blood pressure and decreased stress levels, regardless as to other factors in their lives. Many pet parents have lower blood pressure, and dog owners in particular tend to be in better physical condition than non-dog owners. Researchers in New Zealand have suggested that “regular walkies” with dogs are probably responsible for the generally better health of dog owners.
For people who are depressed, pets can provide a reason to get up in the morning. Because many pet owners feel a sense of responsibility for the animals they care for, this responsibility can be a driving force for someone struggling with depression and loneliness. Pets have also been shown to be beneficial for the elderly, especially older people who live in isolated environments.
Animals of all shapes and sizes are widely used in therapy. Therapists who offer animal or pet therapy have noted that their patients often seem happier with animals around, and that animals can serve as a catalyst for therapeutic breakthroughs. Animal visitors to hospitals, retirement homes, and other care facilities are often greeted with excitement by the residents and patients, and animals have also been used in rehabilitation programs at places like prisons. By reducing psychological stress, people who interact with pets can live longer and lead more rewarding lives.
Pet owners also seem to have better recovery rates when it comes to serious illnesses. In a 2008 survey of cardiac units, doctors noted that pet owners were much less likely to die within a year of a serious heart event, and cat owners in particular seem to live much longer than non-cat owners, even when considering other factors which might influence longevity. Pet parents are also simply less likely to experience strokes and heart attacks, according to the same 2008 study.