Have you ever experienced the heartwarming feeling of spending time with your furry friend? The way they can lift your spirits while simultaneously reducing stress? Or perhaps you're considering getting a pet for companionship, affection, and love? These wonderful benefits are all part of the pet effect, otherwise known as the human-animal bond.
"The pet effect has real, tangible benefits for people of all ages," says Aimee Gilbreath, President of PetSmart Charities. "Although research supports this, you don't need a study to witness firsthand the positive impact a pet can have on a family. Adopting a pet can be a life-altering experience. The connection between humans and animals is profound, and many people regard their pets as family members, happily embracing the many joys they bring."
Aimee Gilbreath shares some of the top advantages and fascinating facts about the pet effect:
- Pets promote mental and physical well-being
There is increasing scientific evidence supporting the emotional health benefits of pet relationships. Pets and therapy animals have been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and social isolation. For instance, a study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Cohen Research Group revealed that 74% of pet owners experienced mental health improvements due to pet ownership, while 54% reported physical health enhancements.
- Pet ownership decreases U.S. health care expenses
Approximately 80 million U.S. households have pets, as reported by the HABRI Foundation. This pet ownership has saved the U.S. health care system an estimated $11.7 billion. The most significant savings were attributed to fewer physician office visits by pet owners compared to non-owners. Additional savings were identified through increased physical activity for pet owners, such as dog owners who walk their dogs five or more times a week.
- Pets offer a sense of security during stressful times
A study by Purdue University found that animal-assisted therapies can provide a distraction from anxiety-provoking medical situations, promoting a feeling of security and encouraging interaction and activity essential for healing. A simple affectionate nuzzle or a wagging tail from a therapy animal can reduce stress and anxiety for both patients and hospital staff. Similarly, your own pet can provide a sense of comfort and tranquility at home, helping you manage stress and anxiety.
- Pets provide companionship, especially in times of isolation
One of the main reasons people own pets is for companionship. During periods of increased isolation, such as quarantine and social distancing, this becomes even more crucial. Another study by HABRI discovered that pets play a role in combating social isolation and loneliness, which were growing public health concerns even before the COVID-19 pandemic. About 85% of respondents agreed that interacting with pets helps alleviate loneliness, while 76% concurred that human-pet interactions can address social isolation. Furthermore, 72% believed that human-animal interaction benefits their community as a whole.