An Irish study had concluded that people who own dogs are healthier than those who do not. Researchers from Queen’s University in Belfast have determined that people with who keep dogs as pets tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels, than those who do not. They are also shown to suffer from fewer minor medical problems, as well as fewer major ailments, than non-dog owners.
“It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress,” says Queen’s University researcher Dr. Deborah Wells, who has published her findings in the British Journal of Health Psychology. “The ownership of a dog can also lead to increases in physical activity and facilitate the development of social contacts, which may enhance physiological and psychological human health in a more indirect manner.” (The Belfast Telegraph)
Cat owners enjoyed no such health benefits. Apparently, being subservient to your pet does not actually provide you with any particular perks to your well-being.
In a review of dozens of previous studies, Dr. Wells found that dogs also seem to aid in the recovery from serious illnesses, such as heart attacks. One study published in 1995 found that dog owners were more likely, by about 8.6 per cent, to still be living one year after a heart attack than those who do not own a dog. A British study determined that chronically ill children endure painful medical procedures better in the presence of a dog. And, in an Israeli study, pets were shown to help people with schizophrenia to feel calmer and more motivated.
In a study unrelated to the Queens University findings, researchers from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England found that dogs aid their owners in making social contact with others. According to researchers Dr. June McNicholas and Dr. Glyn Collis, people are more motivated to make conversation with others if there is a safe topic available as an icebreaker. Dogs were determined to fit the bill.
In the English study, various participants engaged in daily outdoor activities, some in the company of a dog, and others alone. Regardless of physical appearance or style of dress, the participants who were in the company of dogs had increased social interaction than those who went about their activities without a canine companion.
“This may help us understand why pet owners are frequently reported to be healthier than non-owners,” said Dr. McNicholas. “It may be that increased casual social contact can increase feelings of well-being, provide companionship and a sense of social integration.”