The Benefits of Owning a Pet
I have written a few articles about the benefits of psychiatric service dogs for those who suffered from PTSD, especially as a result of combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, most of the information gathered about the benefits of these dogs was criticized for being informal and, therefore, unsubstantiated by scientifically controlled studies.
Another criticism has been that, many of the articles describing the benefits of pet ownership, concentrated on people who were either socially isolated, depressed, and severely anxious.
That has changed as a result of three studies recently reported in the highly respected Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 6. 10.1037/a0024506.
Psychologist Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio and his team, conducted three studies aimed at evaluating the potential benefits of owning a pet among people who did not suffer any of the emotional problems described above. In all three studies, comparisons were made to people who matched well with pet owners but did not own a pet. The comparisons yielded interesting results.
1. "The first study included 217 participants, 79% of them female with an average age of 31. These pet owners were found to be in better health, better adjusted, and happier than those who did not have pets."
2. "The second study involved 56 people who had pet dogs. 91% of them were female and their average age was 42 years.
Among those who reported that their dogs enhanced their feelings of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence, there was a greater sense of well-being."
3. "The third study involved 97 university students, average age 19 years. The finding was that, after experiencing rejection, owning a pet helped many of them feel better."
As a result of owning three Labrador Retrievers, I can easily state that these three studies make perfect sense. They are delightful, fun, entertaining and, if upset, very calming. While the findings seem to include a majority of women, I know that men equally enjoy their cats, dogs and other pets.
However, it's important to not draw the wrong conclusions from studies like these. For example, just because you do not own a pet, does not imply that you are any less healthy, confident and happy than those reported here. In addition, I am quite certain that all of those who own pets do not derive the same benefits as described. I know plenty of people who own pets and do not fit the enthusiastic descriptions above.
Finally, not everyone is a pet lover. In other words, it would be a mistake to buy or adopt a dog or cat if ownership is something you are not comfortable with. I have many friends who do not like these animals but are perfectly and would find the experience of ownership extremely distasteful.
As in every other part of life, it's important to know what is right for you. If you love these animals and want to adopt and know it would be a good thing for you and your family, then, do not hesitate to adopt. It's a joyful experience that serves as a great relief from the heavy stress of modern life.
Your comments are strongly encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
This was first reported in Medical News Today:
Pets Improve Quality of Life - Melbourne Counsellor - Jul 17th 2011
Thanks for the terrific post. It was great to see the actual studies cited too. I'm a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice and I regularly hear from my clients what a difference pets make in their lives. I know my two fuzzy children make a big difference to mine too. I recently wrote an article on pets and physical and mental wellbeing if you or your readers are interested: