HEALTH BENEFITS

85 million European households have a pet.  As this figure grows, so too does their role in people’s lives. Pets provide companionship, affection and protection and unique bonds are formed with owners.

In addition to being a source of love and friendship, there have been numerous scientific studies analysing the many ways in which pets are good for our health.

One of the more obvious health benefits of owning a pet is exercise - dog walking or playing with a cat are great ways to stay active. However, in addition to supporting good physical health, contact with animals is proven to encourage physiological and psychological benefits: reducing stress, helping to prevent illness and allergies, lowering blood pressure, aiding recovery and boosting chances of survival after a life-threatening illness.

As part of a wider role, FEDIAF members fully support research into the human companion animal bond and below is more information about some of these studies:

 

Loneliness
Depression
Stress
Social Interaction
General Health
Cardiovascular Health
Blood pressure
Allergies
The Bond – an overview of benefits
Children

 

Loneliness

  • Research conducted among 1160 single people over 65, revealed a link between owning a dog and reduced social isolation as well as reduced loneliness. Aging Mental Health. 2019

  • A survey of over 2000 people aged over 55 in 2019 proved that animal interaction can decrease loneliness, reduce depression and facilitate social interactions. Habri Research, 2019

  • Positive research supporting AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) to alleviate loneliness among the elderly.  The Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, 2005

  • Research shows that pets provide social support post spousal bereavement. The Telegraph, 2003.

  • It appears from much research that pets reduce loneliness among those in care homes. The Journals of Gerontology, 2002

  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been proven beneficial as a complementary treatment intervention in palliative care settings. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 2013

    • Depression

      Stress

      Social interaction

      • New exploratory study shows the benefits of introducing a cat into the homes of children with ASD. The study found cat adoption was associated with greater empathy, less separation anxiety and fewer behavioural problems. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 2021

      • Survey of 1800 is more evidence that social interactions are facilitated by the presence of a dog. Anthrozoos, 2015

      • Proof that walking the dog helps us make friends. Research among 80 adult strangers showed that the presence of a dog encouraged friendly behaviour when pet owner asked for help. Anthrozoos, 2008

      • Interesting and thought provoking research over 15 years ago showed the benefits of human animal interaction among adult prison inmates.  Prisoners gained more social skills and were less likely to get into trouble! American Psychological Association, 2007

       

      General health

      • Exercising in later life can be a challenge but one solution may be a dog. According to a 2017 study, older adults with dogs get an average of 22 additional minutes of walking per day, likely improving their health. BMC Public Health, 2017

      • A massive survey among 10969 adults was fabulous proof that pet interaction ‘keeps the doctor away’!  Pet owners make about 15% fewer annual doctor visits than non-owners.  Social Indicators Research, 2007

      • Research shows that animal assisted therapy (AAT) may work as a beneficial and effective complementary treatment, especially in the area of behavioural and psychological symptoms, for patients with different degree of dementia severity.   BMC Pshychiatry, 2019

      • Recent research has demonstrated that trained dogs are clearly able to discriminate the seizure odours of patients experiencing seizures.   Scientific Reports, 2019

      • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been proven beneficial as a complementary treatment intervention in palliative care settings. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 2013

      • Research suggests that by enhancing companionship for some HIV-infected persons, pets may buffer the stressful impact of AIDS. AIDS Care, 1999

       

      Cardiovascular health

      • Massive survey of 10,905 people in the US links pet ownership (especially dogs) to increase physical activity, social support and improved outcomes after major cardiovascular events.  American Journal of Cardiology, 2020

      • Owning a dog cuts risk of heart attacks and other fatal diseases. The Guardian, 2017

      Blood pressure

      • Research shows people with pets have lower heart rate and blood pressure than non-pet owners plus faster recovery when pets are present. Psychosomatic Medicine, October 2002

      • Study looked at the effect of pet ownership on stress before and during ACE inhibitor therapy.  The study concluded that ACE inhibitor therapy alone lowers blood pressure but pet companionship lowers blood pressure response to mental stress. Clinical Trial, 2001

      • This study looked at women’s blood pressure and stress levels when in the presence of a friend and also in the presence of a pet dog. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 1991

      Allergies

      • A wealth of research now shows the benefits of pet interaction to help prevent asthma and other allergies.  For example, exposure to a dog in the first year of life was linked to a 13% lower risk of asthma in later childhood among a study of 650,000 children. JAMA Pediatrics, November 2015

      The Bond - an overview of benefits

      • An overview of domestic dogs and human health.  British Journal of Health Psychology, 2007

      • Research among 719 adults with grown up children showed that pet owners reported better mental and physical health and this result was more pronounced among those who were married.  Medical Journal of Australia, 2006

      • An interesting review of research into the association between pet ownership and human health by Liz Ormerod in the medical ‘bible’ the BMJ. BMJ, 2005

       Children

      • 150 Children participating in dog-related activities run by an American youth programme (4-H), had higher stress-management techniques and scholastic competence compared with children in activities that did not involve dogs.  American Psychological Journal, 2017

      • Youngsters growing up with family pets tend to have greater self-esteem, less loneliness, and enhanced social skills. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2017

      • A recent Cambridge University study suggested that children get on better with pets than siblings. This adds to the evidence that a pet can have a positive impact of a child’s development and emotional wellbeing.  Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 2017 

      • Pet dogs can provide children with support during stressful social situations lowering their anxiety likely due to the dog’s non-judgemental nature. Social Development, 2016

      • Research among pre-school children showed that the presence of a dog was linked to fewer prompts in memory task. Anthrozoos, 2010

      • A five year study revealed that pet owning children who are slow learners, or whose parents have divorced cope better with life than those who don’t have a pet.  Pet Health Council, 2007

      • Research links the influence of animal companions to lower blood pressure in children when reading or resting. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1983

      • Scientific studies highlighted that Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) greatly reduces the severity of symptoms in children affected by ADHD. National Library of Medicine, 2013

      • A scientific study demonstrated that the structured care of a pet fish can improve glycemic control in adolescents with type 1 Diabetes. The Diabetes Educator, 2015

      • In a scientific study on adoptive families, more than half of the participants had purposefully adopted pets needing rescue as a parallel experience for their adopted child(ren). Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 2007