A lot of people are pet owners, whether it be dogs, cats, birds, fish, or more "exotic" animals, people in general just seem to love animals. However, what most people don't realize, is that there can be many health and emotional benefits to being around animals.
Several studies have been conducted on the benefits of animal interaction with humans. Here are some of the major benefits.
1. Providing Companionship. Pets can bring a sense of meaning and joy to people's lives, especially people who would otherwise be lonely. This could apply to people of all ages but particularly for elderly adults who may not see their family or friends very often. Isolation can increase a person's chances of being depressed or ill, having a pet to take care of and spend time with can boost people's happiness and take away the feelings of loneliness.
2. Stress Relief. Being around animals can help if someone is under a lot of stress. At my University, every semester during exam week, we have this "event" in which professors bring their pets to campus and allow the students to play and interact with them. This allows students to de-stress from exam week and it's a lot of fun.
3. Reducing Anxiety. Being around animals can help with people who suffer from anxiety issues. Pets can help bring about a sense of comfort for these individuals and also aid in the reduction of fear of social interactions. Animals can help promote calmness for these people.
4. Lower Blood Pressure. Some studies have claimed that being around animals can help lower someone's blood pressure and heart rate.
5. Increasing Exercise. This is referring to dogs in particular. Many dog owners enjoy taking their pets for walks or runs, this is beneficial not only to the pet but to the person as well. Many animals are full of energy and want to play, so interacting with pets in this way can help humans get their exercise too.
6. Reduction of Aggression. Some research has shown that being around animals can reduce anger and aggression in some people.
Pet therapy is a type of therapy that has become quite popular. Due to the many studies and research that has been conducted regarding the benefits of interacting with animals, it is widely growing as a successful way of aiding in the treatment of many different emotional and health problems with people of all ages. Some of the problems animal-assisted therapy is being used for consists of heart disease, anxiety, depression, cancer, Alzheimers' disease, learning disabilities, and a wide range of mental health disorders.
An example of animal-assisted therapy at a children's hospital:
Pets can make a big difference in a person's self-esteem, happiness levels, and their overall physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. You don't have to suddenly become a pet owner to experience any of these benefits. Simply being around someone else's pet even for just a few minutes can help some people to feel better. All in all, animals can be incredibly therapeutic for many people.