Thursday, January 6

Do Pets Have An Impact On Our Health And Well Being?

There is a very interesting article in the New York Times opinion pages claiming that our pets do not have the positive effects on our health as we suspect they do.  The article does start by saying that there is research that supports a positive impact on our health such as stroking an animal lowers blood pressure, that AIDS patients living with pets are less depressed and that pet owners have lower cholesterol levels, sleep more soundly, exercise more and take fewer sick days than non-pet owners.
However, there is another side to the story and that is what this article is focusing on.  
To quote:
"A 2006 survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center, for instance, reported that living with a pet did not make people any happier. Similarly, a 2000 Australian study of mortality rates found no evidence that pet owners lived any longer than anyone else. And last year Dutch researchers concluded that companion animals had no effect on their owners’ physical or mental well-being. Worse, in 2006, epidemiologists in Finland reported that pet owners were more likely than non-pet owners to suffer from sciatica, kidney disease, arthritis, migraines, panic attacks, high blood pressure and depression.
This pattern of mixed results also holds true for the widely heralded notion that animals can cure various physical afflictions. For example, a study of people with chronic fatigue syndrome found that while pet owners believed that interacting with their pets relieved their symptoms, objective analysis revealed that they were just as tired, stressed, worried and unhappy as sufferers in a control group who had no pets. Similarly, a clinical trial of cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy found that interacting with therapy dogs did no more to enhance the participants’ morale than reading a book did.
As for the presumed curative powers of swimming with dolphins, researchers at Emory University who reviewed the dolphin therapy studies concluded that every one purporting to document positive health effects was methodologically flawed.

The article does go on to say that by no means are they trying to disparage the companionship between pet and human, rather, they are only trying to point out there may not be the healing power we have been told of in the past.
I personally have my own thoughts and theories behind this.  Seeing first hand what the love of a dog could do for my sick grandma in her final months or how my mother healed from back surgery having her loyal dog by her side almost as an assistant and finally my father healing from heart surgery with no depression... once again due to his faithful dogs that kept him happy and laughing everyday.
Maybe there is no scientific proof that our furry friends help our health and well being, but I think it is what you see and what you believe in your head.  If you are ill and you believe your dog gives you the strength to get better, I would say they do because you believe it.  

For the full story, bark on the link:  Bark!