The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that positively influences the health and well-being of both. While many of us intuitively understand the benefits of positive interactions with animals in our lives, an emerging body of research is recognizing the impact the human-animal bond can have on individual and community health.
A therapy dog has a positive effect on patients’ pain level and satisfaction with their hospital stay following total joint arthroplasty (Harper, 2014) .
Fibromyalgia patients spending time with a therapy dog instead of in an outpatient waiting area at a pain management facility showed significant improvements in pain, mood and other measures of distress (Marcus, 2013) .
A walking program that matched sedentary adults with therapy animals resulted in an increase in walking over a 52 week graduated intervention with the participants stating their motivation for adherence was “the dogs need us to walk them” (Johnson, 2010) .
The presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder (O’Haire, 2013) .
Children made fewer errors in match-to-sample categorization task in the presence of a dog relative to a stuffed dog or human (Gee, 2010) . Similar studies may indicate presence of a dog serves as both a source of motivation and a highly salient stimulus for children, allowing them to better restrict their attention to the demands of the task (Gee, 2012) .
Pet ownership, perhaps by providing social support, lowers blood pressure response to mental stress (Allen, 2001) .
Pet owners have higher one-year survival rates following heart attacks (Friedmann, 1980, 1995) [8,9].
Recognizing and nurturing the connection between animals and humans has potential implications for individual stability and health, improved economic outputs and healthcare cost savings (Takashima, 2014) . This conclusion was based on a number of studies:
Pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may be reasonable for reduction in cardiovascular disease risk (Levine, 2013) .
Pet ownership was associated with a reduced risk for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and diffuse large cell lymphoma (Trahan, 2008) .
Therapy animals in pediatric cancer studies improved motivation to participate in treatment protocol, to maintain their motivation over time, and to want to “get better” or stay optimistic (Sobo, 2006) , (Barker, 2008) .
Human health savings of $3.86 billion over 10 years have been linked to pet ownership as related to a decrease in doctor visits in studies in Austria and Germany (Heady, 2002) .
Whether it is pet ownership that gives us cause to exercise, offers an antidote for loneliness and gives us loving companions to care for, or animal-assisted interventions that improve motivation to participate in treatment and lessen worry, anxiety and pain, we recognize that animals can influence not just our happiness but also our health.
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