Health Matters Spring 2019 - Page 33

Benefits of having a pet ets have been kept for centuries. Sta- tistics from various sources indicate North Americans own millions of dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, and reptiles. Pets’ affable nature and loving looks are enough for many people to welcome them into their homes, but the benefits of having a pet ex- tends beyond their appearances and tempera- ments. • Pets can help prevent loneliness. Loneliness affects people of all ages, but it is particularly problematic among seniors. Older adults who may be isolated can benefit from having a pet around. According to a study published in Aging & Mental Health, older adults who owned pets were 36 percent less likely to say they were lonely compared to those who didn’t have an animal companion. • Pets can save lives. Pets can be trained to per- form various tasks around the house and in the community. Rescue animals assist in finding peo- ple after natural disasters. Medical alert pets can help people with debilitating illnesses and assist physically impaired people with everyday tasks. • Pets help lower allergy risks. Keeping pets around can reduce a child’s likelihood of develop- ing allergies by as much as 33 percent, according to a study by pediatrician James E. Gern that was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clin- ical Immunology. People exposed early on to ani- mals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall. • Pets provide socialization opportunities. A pet can be the common denominator to strike up new friendships and connect with others. Whether walking around the neighborhood or be- ing part of a pet obedience class or interest group, pets can help their owners expand their social circles. • Pets can help combat stress. Talking to or stroking a pet can make stress easier to handle. A study from researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that, when conducting a stressful task, people experienced less stress when their pets were with them. Various other studies and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found having a pet around can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and may even help to lessen aches and pains. Pets provide unconditional love, which can be benefi- cial to someone facing depression or post trau- matic stress disorder. • Pets help teach responsibility. Taking care of a pet can help children and adults become more responsible. According to the American Pet Prod- uct Association’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, 58 percent of pet owners say their pets help teach their kids to be responsible through routine care, exercise and feeding of the animal. Pets are more than mere companions. In fact, pets can offer numerous health and well-being benefits to people of all ages. — Metro Creative Connection P