I have heard that there are benefits to being a pet owner, particularly relating to dogs, but now there's real evidence and the claims that are made are significant, especially for older people.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that older adults (60 plus) who are pet owners benefit in a number of ways from their canine companions. Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine explained "Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behaviour and health outcomes in older adults." The study found that those with higher degrees of pet bonding would see greater benefits. It conculded that dog walking can be associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits and more frequent and vigorous excercise.
I can't say it comes as too much of a surprise to hear that walking the dog results in a lower body mass index, you would expect this to be the case with regular and "vigorous" exercise. It's the other benefits that hold the most interest for me and the positive impact they have. Owning a dog comes with responsibility, it requires routine and importantly gives us a purpose. Taking the dog for a walk means more opportunity for social engagement, people are more likely to stop and chat, especially other dog owners. The companionship that comes with dog ownership can stave off feelingsof isolation and loneliness. Personally I am more of a cat person but besides taking a cat for a walk all the other benefits still apply.
Karen Perry, Founder alice chilton In-Home Care Services Limited