Social and health benefits of pet interaction


Scientific evidence is increasingly showing that pets are good for people. UK and international research demonstrates that interaction with pet can reduce visits to doctor, enhance social interactions, enrich quality of life for elderly people, perform vital role in child development and so on. Let’s see how does it happen.

Pets also improve chances of survival after life-threatening illness, reduce blood pressure and perceived levels of stress, provide companionship and enhance social interactions, modify human behaviour promoting responses from those who are withdrawn, aggressive or mentally ill, prevent re-offending in juvenile prisoners and positively affect school attendance rates.
Kids with pets take fewer sick days
A study examining 256 children (aged five to eleven years) in three schools in England and Scotland revealed that children from families with pets have significantly better school attendance due to lower levels of absenteeism through illness than those from families without pets. Absenteeism through illness was significantly less among children with pets. Children with pets attended school for an additional three weeks of school compared to children without pets (aged five to seven years).
Keeps the doctor away
A large-scale survey of more than 11,000 Australians, Chinese and Germans proved that pet parents enjoy better health than non-pet parents. Over a five year period, pet parents made 15 – 20 percent fewer annual visits to the doctor than non pet-parents.Pets can help reduce the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis A number of studies have shown that exposure to cats and/ or dogs in the first year of life can reduce subsequent risks of allergic sensitisation to multiple allergens during childhood, including non-pet allergens. Research also shows that exposure to pets is associated with a significantly reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Pets benefit cancer patients Pets can play a role for people who are undergoing stress. In a study which looked at women between 50-60 years of age recovering from breast cancer, 87 percent of these subjects reported that their pets filled at least one important role in their social support and 43 percent said that their pets fulfill over 10 important support functions – being cared for, tactile comfort, being able to express their feelings and still feeling included socially – e.g. when taking the dog for a walk.
Preventing/recovering from illness
Research from the University of New York found that men who had pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure – indicating that pet parenting can bring improvements to all aspects of the pet parent’s life.
Helping widowers cope with stress
In this study, pet parents at three months after bereavement showed fewer physical symptoms, such as crying, than non-pet owners. Pet parents often confided in their pets to help release painful feelings, at times when sharing these feelings with other people were felt to be socially uncomfortable.
Child development
Pets perform a vital role in child development. A study has explored children’s perceptions of the social support gained from relationships with their pets and with people – looking at who they would turn to first in certain situations. Pets featured prominently in children’s selections, providing comfort, companionship and a confidante in a similar manner to humans.
A huge 90 percent of children regard their dog as an unconditional friend and listener. Pet dogs have a stabilising and therapeutic effect – both from a child’s perspective and a mother’s point of view.
It is well-known fact that children are fascinated by animals. This interest can help facilitate learning and have a positive effect on child development. Many school communities have introduced pets in a number of imaginative and practical ways. Pet clubs, pet assemblies or pet days can help nurture a sense of reverence for life, give children a sense of responsibility and provide a fun route into many curriculum areas.
Positive influence of dogs on children in divorce crises
In the first year after a parental divorce, children with a dog were more socially integrated and less aggressive. The reasons are clear – dogs represent a constant positive emotional feeling.
Animal assisted rehabilitation
Results captured from three diverse Californian juvenile institutions have proven ‘at-risk’ teens gain more psycho-social skills (anger management, emotional self-control, parenting skills, etc) through guided human-animal interaction than from years in a classroom.
Pets prevent prisoners reoffending
The therapeutic power of dog interaction was highlighted by the results of Project Pooch (Positive Opportunities, Obvious Change, With Hounds), showing that 100 percent of teenage offenders following a dog therapy programme did not return to the correctional system. Such results provide promising outcomes for the ability of dogs to teach troubled youth responsibility, patience, compassion and a positive work ethic.