When you think of living a healthier life, eating better, exercising more and even meditating may come to mind. But research suggests wellness sometimes wags.
“Dogs really do help people get healthier,” says Kelly Woodward, DO, medical director at Park City Hospital’s LiVe Well Center. “They’ve been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increase social interaction, and motivate people to get outside and exercise more. Dogs can also boost immune systems and some can even predict disease and illness.”
Several studies suggest that having a pet, especially a rescued animal, gives people a greater sense of purpose and can significantly reduce depression, Dr. Woodward says.
“Some mental health experts are even writing prescriptions, instructing their at-risk patients to adopt a homeless animal,” he adds.
Since dogs are often social magnets, dog owners are more likely to interact with new people and have stronger human relationships — both significant factors in mental well-being.
“Social isolation is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide. And pets, especially dogs, can provide an instant social connection. Whether people stop to greet your pup on a walk or you end up chatting with them at the dog park, we often make friends through Fido,” says Dr. Woodward.
The physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come from pet ownership are well-documented, but what about financial benefits? While additional costs are associated with owning a pet like the cost of food, travel accommodations, and visits to the vet, studies have shown significant savings in terms of health costs because dog and cat owners make fewer annual doctor visits and are less likely to be on medication for heart and sleep problems.
PAWsitive health benefits of pets:
Just like Park City Hospital’s LiVe Well Center, dogs can help you live a healthier life. The health benefits of having a pet include:
- Increased physical and social activity
- Elevated mood
- Lower stress levels
- Health cost savings
So, if you’re looking to get a new leash on life, it might be as simple as visiting your local animal shelter.