5 Ways Having a Pet Improves Your Health

Having pets means you have a companion, and apart from housing an adorable animal in your home, you could very well be improving your health. Don’t believe us? Many studies have found a wide array of health benefits associated with having pets, and these benefits are both mental and physical. Below are fives ways pets keep you physically and mentally healthier.

John Moore/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images

1. Pets help you fight off allergies and build your immunity

Contrary to antiquated beliefs, pets can help you help you fight off allergies and asthma. According to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study, published in in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by James E. Gern, MD, children who grew up with furry animals at home were less likely to suffer from pet allergies.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

2. Pets reduce outbursts in Alzheimer’s patients

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia where there is a chronic loss of brain function that adversely affects memory, behavior, and thinking. In this population, keeping an animal at home leaves patients less anxious. “Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home,” says Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to WebMD. “Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog.”

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

3. Pets help people who suffer from mild depression

When it comes to mental health, pets can be a huge help. A study from Miami University and Saint Louis University — titled “Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership” — found that pets can improve the lives of their owners from a psychological standpoint by reducing stress and illness. “As our understanding of the psychological processes underlying perceptions of pets grows,” write the authors of the study. “The present work provides valuable insights for the meaningful social support that pets provide for their owners and the attendant benefits these ubiquitous and consequential relationships generate.”

DALE de la REY/AFP/Getty Images

DALE de la REY/AFP/Getty Images

4. Pets keep you active and decrease your odds of heart disease

Owning some pets, like dogs, encourage you to step up your fitness game since you have to walk your dog and take them out. This increase in activity results in protecting pet owners from heart disease. “Over the last decade or so there have been periodic reports on the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, a cardiologist with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston and lead author of a new scientific statement by the American Heart Association, as published in the journal Circulation. “Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is probably associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.”

John Moore/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images

5. Pet owners live longer

Perhaps it is all the health benefits, or simply the mental happiness of having a companion, but pet owners were found to live longer in a study, which looked at patients discharged from a Coronary Care Unit. In this study, published in Public Health Reports, the patients that went home to an animal companion had a higher survival rate than their peers who did not.

More From Life Cheat Sheet: