Pet Owners Live Longer


Published April 2007

There are more pets in American households than children in American homes. In fact, there are more pets than overall people in the United States.

People love their pets and that's good news given that studies have shown that pets can provide more than just affection. They also offer all kinds of health benefits for people.

Higher Survival Rates For Heart Attack Victims Who Own A Pet

One of the first studies indicating the heart benefits from pet ownership appeared in "Public Health Reports" in 1980. It showed that the survival rates of heart attack victims who had a pet were 28 percent higher than those of patients who didn't have an animal companion. "The health effects seem to be very real and by no means mystical," says Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University. "Contact with companion animals triggers a relaxation response," he says.

More recent studies have shown survival rates for heart attack victims who had a pet are 12% longer than for those who did not have one, according to researcher Erica Friedmann.

In that study, only 5.7 percent of 53 pet owners, compared with 28.2 percent of 39 patients who did not own pets, died within a year of discharge from a coronary-care unit.

“The effect of pet ownership on survival was independent of the severity of the cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Erika Friedmann, who worked on the study. “That is, among people with equally severe disease, pet owners were less likely to die than non-owners.

In fact, according to a study of how psychological factors contribute to recovery rates for heart-disease patients, pet ownership ranked highest – above even such factors as a spouse or a supportive family – in determining the patient's prognosis for long-term survival.

Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that owning a pet can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Lower triglyceride levels

Less Doctor Visits

People who own pets, have been shown to be less stressed and require fewer visits to their physicians than non-owners.

Reduced Stress

Rebecca Johnson, a professor of gerontological nursing at the University of Missouri at Columbia, showed that interaction with pets does, in fact, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The ability of companion pets to reduce our overall stress level probably accounts for most of their life-extending qualities. "For many people, pets also provide a reason to get moving," adds Johnson. How many people, after all, would actually get any exercise if it weren't for their over-enthusiastic dog?

Purring Can Improve Healing

The type of frequencies that are found in the cat's purr are good for healing muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries, as well as for muscle strengthening. Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.

This association between the frequencies of cats' purrs and improved healing of bones and muscles may provide help for some humans.

Seniors and Pets

Numerous studies have shown that just visiting with a cat or dog results in decreased feelings of loneliness for seniors in nursing care facilities. When they go to a nursing home, the seniors lose all their possessions. They need to belong, love and be accepted. The dog or cat gives unconditional then that love.

In Conclusion

Studies prove that owning a cat, or a pet in general, not only contributes to a person's feelings of well-being and overall happiness, but people who own a pet actually live longer than people who don't have a pet! The reasons are most likely related to an array of psychological factors, such as the facts that owning a pet decreases loneliness and depression, encourages laughter and nurturing, and stimulates exercise.

These medical studies perhaps just prove what most of us already know, that life is much better with a favorite animal pal.


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