Pets may not make owners happier

2011-08-03 22:31

Washington - Pet owners have long been encouraged to think that they are happier, healthier and live longer than people without pets, but a new US study claims they might be barking up the wrong tree.

Howard Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says studies conducted in the past to determine whether having a pet improves health and longevity have "produced a mishmash of conflicting results".

"While pets are undoubtedly good for some people, there is presently insufficient evidence to support the contention that pet owners are healthier or happier or that they live longer" than people without pets, Herzog wrote in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

"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."

Herzog cites several studies purportedly showing the benefits of having a pet, including one from 1980 which showed that heart attack victims who had a pet were around four times more likely than petless victims to survive for a year after the crisis, but said more gloomy studies had been ignored.

"While the media abounds with stories extolling the health benefits of pets, studies in which pet ownership has been found to have no impact or even negative effects on human physical or mental health rarely make headlines," he said.

One study conducted last year found that pet owners were more likely than non-owners of pets to die or suffer another heart attack within a year of suffering a first crisis. That survey got no media coverage, Herzog says.

Pet effect

He cited another study which found no difference in blood pressure between older pet-owners and the petless. In fact, the pet owners in that study exercised less than the non-owners and were more likely to be overweight.

Moreover, he said pets - which can be found in two-thirds of US households - bring with them a "cornucopia" of health problems that can be transmitted to humans such as giardia, salmonella poisoning, skin mites and worms.

Other large-scale studies conducted in the United States, Australia, Sweden and Finland also appeared to show few benefits to physical or psychological health from pet ownership, according to Herzog.

The professor, 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.

Until that research is completed, "the existence of a pet effect on human health and happiness remains a hypothesis in need of confirmation rather than an established fact," he says.

  • Ron - 2011-08-03 23:01


  • jock - 2011-08-04 00:16

    my dogs says you are talking a lot of crap

  • Ralph Long - 2011-08-04 00:36

    What a load of crap........ that is why I never believe pyschologists.

  • NZdreamer - 2011-08-04 03:07

    My dogs make me so happy, and show me more respect than my kids and some people sometimes! They are MY best friends!

  • Darkwing - 2011-08-04 03:13

    It is always nice to be skeptical of established wisdom when research grant season rolls along.

  • Captainmorgan - 2011-08-04 05:17

    These people actually go to university to dream up crap theories that are of no use to man or beast

      daaivark - 2011-08-04 09:39

      It's called academia and the reason I left varsity.

  • braamc - 2011-08-04 05:30

    My labs make me happy, they are the best things that happened to me ever!

  • BugsyJamesy - 2011-08-04 06:23

    Pet owners houses are filthy, and they are to ignorant to realize it siesa.

      Dedre Nielsen - 2011-08-04 06:38

      "...they are to ignorant..." That is just TOO easy TO make fun of What about baby owners, their houses smell like human $h!t and vomit most of the time.

      NZdreamer - 2011-08-04 07:13

      @ BugsyJamesy go and roll in the bloody litter tray, you retard! What a stupid comment!!

      Flee - 2011-08-04 08:34

      WTF, My pets dont come in the house except to sleep, they are outside, poop in a "designated area" and are bathed regularly, brushed weekly and are cleaner than you most prob. Dumbass Troll

      daaivark - 2011-08-04 09:40

      Bit of a generalisation there, wouldn't you say, Bugsy? My kids made a great deal more mess than my animals.

      BugsyJamesy - 2011-08-05 06:12

      Just the fact that I got so many an responses proves my point.

  • Lang Henning - 2011-08-04 06:40

    People who like animals have pets, people who don't like animals, don't have pets. We hopefully live to our allotted threescore years and ten and maybe a few more for bonus. That's about it - study finished.

      ProsAndCons - 2011-08-04 08:35

      And that sums it up in a nutshell...'nuff said!

      onthefence - 2011-08-04 13:01

      Can a nut be a pet....had a pet rock when I was I seem lonely? Maybe I should get a pet?.....maybe I should stop drinking!!

  • Nedkelly - 2011-08-04 08:37

    Absolute bollocks - I would merely exist without my animals - they make life worth living. Obviously if you are not a total animal lover then having them wont make much of a difference in your life. If I come home with a splitting headache, which is quite often, loving and playing with my animals takes that away - they are definitely medicine to the soul!

      Umfubi - 2011-08-04 09:41

      I quite agree that pets are wonderful, provided you like them... but your first statement about merely existing without pets etc rather indicates that your psychological health and perhaps relationship skills could possibly do with a tune-up. As I said, pets are cool and soothing and great and wonderful... but they do not substitute for real proper relationships and life.

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