Here’s a good word of the day for animal lovers: “zooeyia”—a combination of the Greek words for animal and health. It describes the human health benefits of companion animals. And there are a lot of them!
An article for physicians in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine lists the many physical and emotional health benefits of living with companion animals.
Here are some key ways that the presence of pets in our lives can help us:
- Pets reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing us with companionship, attachment, and opportunities for social connection.
- Having pets in the home can reduce harmful health behaviors like smoking because we don’t want to put our pets at risk.
- Walking dogs and playing with pets provides people with daily opportunities to increase their amount of exercise and physical activity.
- The presence of a companion animal can decrease stress and blood pressure. Pets can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and increase our sense of self-worth.
The article notes that physicians should educate pet-owning patients about the possible risks of animals, such as the transmission of zoonotic diseases, but stresses that the health benefits outweigh the risks.
Does your doctor ask you about your pets? According to the authors, talking to patients about their animals is a great opportunity for doctors to improve the quality of patient care!