Myth: People with a pet are happier and may even live longer.
Could this simply be a common thought that people think is true?
I don’t necessarily dislike animals … I love seeing horses in a meadow, squirrels scampering up trees or birds in flight. But as long as I can remember I’ve disliked animals touching me (yes, even your adorable one) and I never wanted to have a pet. I gave in a few times when the boys were young because everyone knows that all boys need a pet. (Not true!) One time we even had a cat give birth to four kittens under my son’s bed. (Don’t ask.)
Now with a compromised leg, I can’t afford to have any animals close to me, especially too-friendly dogs or cats that could cut the fragile skin on my calf.
My friends know I don’t like pets, but other than that, I tend to keep my dislike for pets to myself (until now) but I will move to the opposite side of the road/trail to avoid coming close to one, especially if the pet owners seems to think everyone should like their ‘baby’.
But sometimes when I heard a comment about pet owners being happier and living longer, I wondered if I was missing out on something. Did not liking pets mean I was somehow diminishing my enjoyment of life? Maybe I was even an uncaring person? (some pet-owners implied that I was) Maybe I needed to move beyond my dislike for animal hair on my clothes, furry butts on my furniture, non-human throw-up and embrace the creatures.
But yet sometimes watching others with pets, I had a hard time believing that they actually add more love than hassle to one’s life. They can ruin things in a house if left alone too long. They are an added expense… shots, cages, food, toys and even clothes. And I’ve seen pets add major hassle to vacation plans … a kennel, pet sitter or a
gullible kind friend is needed.
But maybe that’s all worth it if a pet would make me a happier person and maybe even help me live longer.
And some studies have shown that … Pets can ease our loneliness, reduce our stress, promote social interaction, encourage exercise and playfulness, and provide us with unconditional love and affection.
But recently I read about a new study showing that while pets can bring people joy, there’s nothing to prove that pet owners are any happier and/or live longer than non-pet owners. It’s simply a nice thought that animal lovers want to believe, but there’s no proof behind it.
Whew … am I glad to hear that.
I can be as happy as I choose to be with or without a pet!.
Howard Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, published Are Pet Owners Healthier and Happier? Maybe Not… in a recent issue of Psychological Science. He says,
“While some researchers have reported that positive effects accrue from interacting with animals, others have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non-pet owners.”
He says that the media tends to ignore studies showing negative news about owning a pet … like a study where the pet owners exercised less than non-pet owners or one where pet owners were more likely than non-owners of pets to die or suffer another heart attack within a year of suffering the first heart attack. His article went on to say …
“Moreover, pets — which can be found in two-thirds of U.S. households — bring with them a “cornucopia” of health problems that can be transmitted to humans such as giardia, salmonella poisoning, skin mites, and worms.”
Herzog, a pet owner himself, stressed he was not condemning pet ownership or the use of therapy animals for children with autism or people with psychological disorders, but wanted to see more scientific research done.
So have a pet if you want to … but don’t expect it to provide health and happiness. And don’t be surprised when I back away from it, instead of toward it.
Are you a pet-owner? Why or why not?
Some info from: Does Pet Ownership Boost Health?
What’s your thoughts on the benefits (or not) of having a pet?
Other Monday Myths:
Does Running Hurt Your Knees?
More Stuff Will Make Me Happy