As we age and the people in our lives begin to move away or pass, the loss of companionship and interaction with others can be a very real problem. Situations and friendships dissolving over time is a natural cycle of life, as nothing is permanent and change is ever-present. The loss of loved ones due to illness or geographical distance can cause a sense of loneliness and depression for us as we get older. It has always been said that a dog is a man’s best friend, and truer words have not be spoken when we age and have dog as a companion. Of course, it is not only dogs that can provide such companionship, cats, birds and a host of other animals can also serve as great companions.
Research studies tend to suggest that pets can benefit our health
Many research studies have been done regarding how pet ownership or living with a pet can benefit our health. Measuring the impact of human and animal interaction is difficult and problematic for researchers, so there are very few definitive conclusions that have been reached through these studies. The results of many studies do tend to suggest that having a pet can help with heart health and reducing depression or loneliness. One study suggested that pet ownership is an important source of much needed social support. This social support enhances a person’s well-being and alleviates loneliness. Another study found that those who have a pet had fewer doctor visits.
A growing trend in physical and mental therapy is the use of therapy dogs to help those patients suffering from depression, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Research suggests that animals have a healing effect on certain mental conditions in patients, such as decreasing stress and anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder patients, decreasing loneliness and feelings of isolation in elderly patients and increasing self-esteem and spirit. The increase in self-esteem enables patients in physical therapy to be more involved in group activities.
The benefits of pet interaction also manifest in lowered blood pressure, a decrease in heart rates, an increase in endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, hormones which are associated with good health and a feeling of well-being. Hospitals and nursing homes have begun to use therapy animals much more in the past few years, and report a very positive impact on their patients’ quality of life.