Lots of research has indicated that having a dog or a cat can help people live happier, healthier lives. But it's been unclear whether there really is a cause-and-effect relationship between pet ownership and better physical and mental health. Now, new research indicates that the benefits of having a canine or feline companion are real and broad.The most unbalanced and unhappy I ever felt in my life was my first few years of college, when I was living in dorms in which I was not allowed to own a pet. There were many reasons that my emotional equilibrium was off during that time, but I remember frequently wishing, so desperately, that I could have a pet. I grew up with animals, cats and dogs and horses and turtles and rabbits and birds, and the first opportunity I got to have animals as an adult, once I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, I adopted my beloved Jimmy, and I have lived with animals ever since.
A team of psychologists from Miami University and St. Louis University conducted a series of studies aimed at trying to tease out the benefits of pet ownership.
"Although there is correlational evidence that pets may help individuals facing significant life stressors, little is known about the well-being benefits of patterns for everyday people," they wrote in a paper published online this week by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
...The researchers found that, in fact, there were lots of differences [between pet owners and people who do not own pets], with pet owners faring much better overall. For example, pet owners tended to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, get more exercise, be more extroverted and were less fearful about getting close to other people.
..."In summary, pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners," the researchers wrote.
I am, without a doubt, a person whose life is better because of the animals with whom I share it.
*goes to the treat drawer*