Do Animals Actually Help to Reduce Stress?

Service dog in uniform

via Flickr

Service dog in uniform

Stress is a major problem in people’s lives today and it is caused by a number of factors. Stress can cause a lot of serious health problems such as depression and anxiety. To reduce or prevent stress, people exercise, meditate, or do some type of hobby. However, there is a study that says animals can also help reduce stress. Touch and movement from an animal can help lower blood pressure and boost heart health. Also, it can ease loneliness and depression. Furthermore, having an animal increases physical activity which can help with various health issues. Animals can make great companions and be a great support system. 

Animals can bring comfort to people. When people feel calm and comforted, their blood pressure can be lowered. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it says that by petting an animal, it keeps your blood pressure at bay and is relaxing. This happens because cortisol is lowered and oxytocin is boosted. Cortisol is “a hormone produced by the adrenal glands on top of the kidney and involved in the stress response” (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2022).  When cortisol is raised, it causes sleep problems and stress. Oxytocin is a hormone that regulates stress and is linked to giving people warm and fuzzy feelings. When your blood pressure is lowered, it affects your heart health in positive ways. When a person becomes physically active, it increases heart strength which can ward off cardiovascular diseases. The furry friends that people have play a bigger role than one might think when it comes to health.          

People these days are feeling more lonely than ever, especially with the pandemic because they were isolated and could not really go outside. Having an animal made people feel supported and felt emotionally connected to their pets. Not just during the pandemic, but animals generally have a positive link to people’s mental health. According to research, it was found that people who had a strong bond with animals reported lower scores of mental health related outcomes at baseline. Having an animal not only prevents depression, but it also helps with anxiety. A study that was conducted on university students showed that when they interacted with a dog or watched videos of dogs reduced their anxiety and elevated their mood. 

Having a pet can keep one physically active. According to one study, people who owned pets showed a higher frequency of moderate physical activity which meant that they burned more calories. Scientific reports published a study that revealed most dog owners spent about 300 minutes each week walking with their dogs, which is 200 more minutes of walking than people without dogs. Walking is very beneficial to one’s health. It lowers blood pressure, prevents high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. The national physical activity guidelines state that people should walk about 150 minutes a week, and people who owned dogs exceeded this physical activity guideline.

Many people own dogs because they love animals and want companionship. The friendship that a dog gives not only keeps one occupied but also helps with various health problems. They help to elevate one’s moods and help them to stay physically active. One can say that dogs truly are a man’s best friend.