Animal companionship has been a source of comfort and relief from suffering throughout history. For over 40 years, pet therapy has been a subject of study for nursing and other health care disciplines concerned with emotional well-being and quality of life.
There are numerous organizations and types of pet therapy, such as animal-assisted activities, animal-assisted therapy, animals in human therapy, canine visitation therapy, companion animal therapy, pet-assisted therapy, and pet-facilitated therapy.
While human friends provide great social support and have some fabulous benefits, pets also have unique health enhancing properties. Research shows that pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits.
Research has shown that contact with pets can provide psychological support in terms of emotional connection, stress reduction, reduced feelings of loneliness, and attenuation of depression. In a study at UCLA School of Public Health, relationships with pets reduced the incidence of depression in men with AIDS. After surveying more than 1,800 gay men with AIDS, the investigators found that the men who had close attachments with pet companions were significantly less likely to suffer from depression than men who did not have a pet.
In one study, a, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats had lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When the control group heard the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and adopted pets.
While we all know the comfort of talking about your problems with someone who’s a good listener, research shows that spending time with a pet can be just as comforting. A study of 240 married couples reported that participants were significantly less stress when their pet was present than when a supportive friend or spouse was present. Pet ownership has been shown to enhance well-being among all populations, including children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.