If you are looking for a healthier
life, get a dog. Scientists have long believed that the
companionship of a pet can be good for you, but new
research suggests that dog owners are physically
healthier than cat owners.
According to Deborah Wells from
Queen's University, Belfast, dog owners tend to have
lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, possibly
thanks to regular walks with their four-legged friends.
Writing in the British Journal
of Health Psychology, Dr Wells said that dog owners
appear to suffer from fewer minor ailments as well as
fewer serious medical problems.
In a review of dozens of
previous studies, Dr Wells found that dogs also seem to
aid recovery from serious illnesses, such as heart
attacks. One study published in 1995 found that dog
owners were more likely, by about 8.6 per cent, to be
alive one year after a heart attack than those who do
not own a dog.
Dr Wells said: "It is possible
that dogs can directly promote our well-being by
buffering us from stress. The ownership of a dog can
also lead to increases in physical activity and
facilitate the development of social contacts, which may
enhance physiological and psychological human health in
a more indirect manner."
One British study found that the
presence of a dog can help chronically ill children
endure potentially painful medical procedures.
With their heightened sense of
smell, dogs also appear to be able to sniff out
malignant melanomas, a kind of cancer, or the onset of
low blood sugar in diabetics, research suggests.
A study in Israel, meanwhile,
suggested that pets can help people with schizophrenia
to feel calmer and more motivated.