It is a very widely known fact that dogs can help improve the physical and mental health of their owners. The subject has been tackled many, many times in blogs and other sources of media for 30 years. This post will try to explain how they exactly benefit human owners.
The exact benefits of the human-dog bond were never exactly quantified until Alan Beck, a Purdue University psychologist, and Aaron Katcher, a psychiatrist from the University of Pennsylvania did research into the subject. They found that when with a dog, a person’s blood pressure dropped, heart rate slowed, breathing became more regular and muscle tension relaxed-all of which are signs of reduced stress. Another study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine not too long ago confirmed these findings and also added that the blood chemistry of subjects with dogs changed to include less stress related hormones. Also interesting is that all of the beneficial health effects observed in the studies were noticed after 5 to 24 minutes after interacting with the dogs, faster than most over the counter medication.
In a research study of over 5,000 people conducted in Melbourne, Australia, some with pets and some without pets, found that the pet owners had lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet-owners, even when both groups had the same poor life styles involving smoking and high-fat diets.
In comparing different sets of elderly people, who after having friends and family pass on and are at a higher risk of depression, the likelihood that the non-pet owning senior citizens would end up being diagnosed as clinically depressed was four times higher than that found in the pet owning people of the same age. It goes without saying that we can use the help of dogs just as much as they can use our companionship.