August 4, 2011
Pet Owners May Not Live Happier, Healthier Lives
A new U.S. study claims pet owners may not actually live happier, healthier and longer than those who have no pets.
Howard Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says past studies trying to prove that owning a pet leads to a healthier life have conflicting results.
"While pets are undoubtedly good for some people, there is presently insufficient evidence to support the contention that pet owners are healthier or happier or that they live longer" than people without pets, Herzog wrote in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.
"While some researchers have reported that positive effects accrue from interacting with animals, others have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non-pet owners."
He used several studies that claimed there were benefits to owning a pet, including one from 1980 which showed that heart attack victims who had a pet were around four times more likely to survive for a year after the event than those who were petless.
"While the media abounds with stories extolling the health benefits of pets, studies in which pet ownership has been found to have no impact or even negative effects on human physical or mental health rarely make headlines," he wrote.
The researcher said one study conducted last year found that pet owners were more likely to die or suffer from heart attacks.
Another study found no difference in blood pressure between older pet-owners and the petless.
According to Herzog, other large-scale studies conducted in the U.S., Australia, Sweden and Finland appeared to show few benefits to physical or psychological health.
Herzog said more research is needed to truly understand the effects that pets have on a human life.
He said animals are important in many aspects of human life, and research on human-animal relationships is important because it "offers a window into really big issues in human psychology."
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