I have known all my life that pets provide love and companionship to humans. It’s no surprise that spending time with us, petting us and playing with us can reduce stress for people.
We can have a calming effect and can bring blood pressure down. Well, maybe not when we chew up your favorite pair of shoes, but most of the time we can lower your blood pressure.
We also do what we can to entertain our human family. If we can make our parents laugh at our silliness, we’re definitely eager to oblige.
And we’re great to take along for a walk to help chat with neighbors and break the ice with new people. If you take your pet with you on your outings, you’re never at a loss for something to talk about.
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We’ve known for years there are benefits to having a pet in your life. But now, after an incredible study by the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health, I’ve learned that pets do a ton more for people and communities.
According to the report by Anna Salleh with ABC Science, Associate Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Western Australia and her international team of researchers surveyed about 2,500 people in the U.S. and Australia. They were interested in looking at how pets might help in creating connections between people and perhaps impact reducing social isolation.
What they learned in their research was fascinating.
For starters, they learned having a pet can lead to more meaningful relationships with people. Wood found that 42 percent of the pet owners received practical or emotional support from people they’d met through their pets. She actually had discovered in previous research that people who knew each other from their pets were more likely to look out for one another during adversity.
I found it particularly interesting that the research indicated that it didn’t really matter what type of pet someone had. The benefits of the social contact were the same whether it was a dog, cat, horse or guinea pig. They all helped their human family.
The idea that people were looking after one another and taking care of each other in tough times is really an amazing result of having a pet. Wood indicated this helps improve the social fabric of the community, increasing mental health and well being because it improves people’s sense of belonging.
Wood says, “In a world where everyone is really busy and we’re a bit socially disconnected and people are a bit shy with strangers, or take a while to build up trust in new relationships, there’s something about a shared interest in pets or animals that reminds us we’ve got something in common and we love something beyond ourselves.”
That is pretty wonderful to me. I can tell you, animals have the capacity to love something beyond themselves, too. For those of us with families, we love them beyond description. For those who don’t have families yet, they live for the day when they can show someone they have an enormous amount of love to share.
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