6 Potential Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

As you read this article, is there a furry friend curled up on the couch beside you, or sitting at your feet? The odds are good – according to a nationwide poll carried out by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) that found that 23 million American households acquired a pet during the pandemic. And once you factor in the tens of millions of Americans who were already pet owners, it’s estimated that 70 percent of U.S. households have a pet, per the American Pet Products Association’s 2021–2022 National Pet Owners Survey. (If this number sounds astounding, just think how many more still have applied to adopt a pet and are just waiting for the good news that Spot or Fido is theirs to take home!)

Owning a pet comes with great responsibility, sure, but research suggests it may also come with significant health benefits. Bear in mind, though, that the vast majority of research about the effects of pets on human health are observational, meaning they suggest a link between these two factors rather than a cause-and-effect relationship.

Read on for six ways having a pet may help you stay healthier and happier.

1. Pets Promote Social Connectedness

Having a dog gets you outside, where you’ll naturally find yourself interacting and engaging with your community on a regular basis. For example, pets can function as social icebreakers, says Nancy R. Gee, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and Bill Balaban Chair in Human Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “For many, pets serve as social capital in neighborhoods and communities,” says Dr. Gee. “They precipitate the exchange of favors and encourage civic engagement.”

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