Pet ownership should be recognised as a public health strategy due to the profound benefits for individuals, families and communities, says Steven Feldman.

owning a pet

Troy Vettese discounts the significant benefits that pets bring to the lives of billions of people worldwide. Scientific research shows that human-animal interactions can have a powerful impact on mental, physical and social health for individuals, families and entire communities.

In fact, the benefits of pets are so profound that Vettese should consider making a full U-turn – we should have more pets and we should view them as a low-cost, high-reward public health strategy.

Pets can buffer stress and help address social isolation. Health professionals are increasingly recommending pets and incorporating them into the long-term management of mental health conditions. Think about the cost of heart disease and obesity.

Research demonstrates that pet owners have lower blood pressure, are more likely to achieve the recommended levels of daily exercise and are less likely to be obese. In addition, children with pets are more likely to be physically active.

Pets benefit from their close relationship with people just as much as we do. Pet owners consider their pets to be an important part of the family, and are willing to make significant lifestyle changes for them. According to a survey, 61% of pet owners would change housing to accommodate a pet, and 45% would change jobs to have increased time with pets at home. Most importantly, international research conducted in nine countries shows that strong bonds result in better veterinary care for the pets we love.

Environmentally, pets help prevent waste, reducing agriculture’s footprint. Ingredients produced during human food processing that would otherwise be discarded are safely used in pet food.

Scientific research tells the real story. The right headline should be: “Get a pet for good health at both ends of the leash!”

(Story source: The Guardian)

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