Does Owning a Pet Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life?
Has the family been begging you for a dog or a cat, or even a goldfish?
Have you been considering a pet to have as a companion?
Or, are you already an animal fan with a whole menagerie at home?
Well, you can feel more confident in your decision because science has shown some really positive health benefits of owning a furry, feathered or scaly friend – ones that can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
Drawing from my family experience of owning a pet hedgehog, baby rabbit, giant schnauzer, german shepherd, guinea pigs (it didn’t go well with guinea pigs) and currently a tiny toy poodle called Lapa – their love and affection is absolutely unconditional (though I have a suspicion my poodle will trade me for a piece of cheese). They simply bring so much joy and happiness to our lives.
Australians Love Our Pets
Did you know that there are over 24 million pets in Australia today, which means that pets actually outnumber us! At around 62%, Australia has one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world, and with an estimated spending of more than $12.2 billion on pet products and services over the last 12 months, it’s clear we love our animal companions.
For those of us with pets, their value is obvious: they’re true members of our family, great companions who are always happy to see us no matter what and there is always love and loyalty. My dog’s mischief makes me laugh all the time, of course if it’s not on a grand scale of destruction.
And studies show that they offer us so much more.
The Pet Effect
While most people keep pets for recreation, companionship and protection, many don’t realise that our best friends also have an impact on enhancing our health.
There are a numerous amounts of research indicating that pet ownership is associated with a range of physical, psychological and social health advantages, which all work together to improve our overall quality of life. This phenomenon is often referred to as ‘The Pet Effect’.
In fact, they have gone so far as to suggested that pet ownership may even be able to assist the healthcare system and lower public expenditure, as the improved health and wellbeing factors associated with pet ownership has been found to reduce our use of healthcare services.
The Role Our Pets Play
So how exactly do they do this? Well, simply interacting with our pet friends prompts a positive response from us.
Some of these include:
- Stress Reduction. Patting a dog, listening to a cat purr or watching fish swim in an aquarium greatly reduces our stress levels and lowers blood pressure, which is great for overall health, both psychologically and physically.
- Improved Physical Fitness. As a specific example, my poodle Lapa makes a fantastic exercise partner for brisk walking or running throughout the day, which improves physical fitness and gets us out into the fresh air.
- Immune System Development. Studies show that children who grow up with animals actually have a lower likelihood of developing allergies and immunity issues.
- Mental Health. Through our relationships with our pets, owners are less likely to experience loneliness and depression, simply due to their reassuring presence in our lives.
- Child Development. It has been shown that pets play a role in the social and emotional development of children, such as improving self-esteem, autonomy and empathy, as well as trust, a sense of community and confidence.
- Social Enablers. Having pets is a very social activity, especially with friends and local neighbours. There are also external clubs, training schools, and family events that owners like to get involved in, which encourages social peer bonding.
With all of these advantages on offer for your health and wellbeing, it seems that your best friend is looking after you just as much as you are them.
Improving Your Health & Wellbeing
It’s clear that the Pet Effect, even if small, could help contribute to an overall improvement in your health and wellbeing. And whilst owning a pet alone might not reduce your life insurance premiums, leading a positive and healthy lifestyle inspired by your pet is certainly a step in the right direction.
Speak to a NobleOak Specialist today on 1300 041 494, or read our Life Insurance frequently asked questions here for more information.
- Animal Medicines Australia. Pet Ownership In Australia 2016 Report.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Special feature: household pets. Canberra, Australia: 1995.
- Edney AT. Companion animals and human health. Vet Rec 1992;130:285–7.
- Serpell J. Beneficial effects of pet ownership on some aspects of human health and behaviour. JRSM 1991;84:717–20.
- Allen K. Are pets a healthy pleasure? The influence of pets on blood pressure. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 2003;12:236–9.
- Wells DL. The effects of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues 2009;65:523–43.
- Headey B, Grabka M, Kelley J, Reddy P, Tseng Y. Pet ownership is good for your health and saves public expenditure too: Australian and German longitudinal evidence. Australian Social Monitor 2002;5:93–9.
- Anderson WP, Reid CM, Jennings GL. Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Med J Aust 1992;157:298–301.
- Arhant-Sudhir K, Arhant-Sudhir R, Sudhir K. Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk reduction: supporting evidence, conflicting data and underlying mechanisms. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 2011;38:734–8.
- RACGP. The ‘pet effect’: Health Related Aspects of companion’. Volume 41, No. 6, June 2012.
- De Schriver MM, Riddick CC. Effects of watching aquariums on elders’ stress. Anthrozoös 1990;4:44–8.
- Friedmann E, Thomas SA, Son H. Pets, depression and longterm survival in community living patients following myocardial infarction. Anthrozoos 2011;24:273–85.