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Pet owners report being healthier and happier

Smiling man cuddling with pet dog in a home setting.

April 24, 2019—Here's a report that probably won't surprise pet owners. According to a new national poll, animals help us age better—positively affecting our physical and mental health.

Furry friends with benefits

The survey was conducted as part of the University of Michigan's National Poll on Healthy Aging. Here's what pet owners, ages 50 to 80, had to say:

  • Three-fourths report that their animals reduce stress and give them a sense of purpose.
  • The majority of pet owners say their pet helps them stay physically active. Make that 78 percent of dog owners!
  • Among those reporting their health as "fair" or "poor," 70 percent say their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms. And 46 percent say pets help take their mind off of their pain.
  • Almost two-thirds say having an animal companion helps them connect with other people too.

Weighing the pros and cons

The survey also found a few downsides. If you're considering a new pet, these findings may interest you:

  • Almost 20 percent of people reported that having a pet puts a strain on their budget.
  • More than half of the pet owners say a pet can make it difficult to travel or be active outside the home.
  • One in six say they put their pet's needs ahead of their own health.

Having a pet can be a balancing act and big commitment. You'll want to be confident you're making a good choice for you and the animal. For example, it's true that dogs help their owners get more exercise. But for people with mobility issues, a cat may be a better choice. Other animals, like rabbits, guinea pigs and birds, can offer benefits too.

Of course, some people are in situations where they can't have a pet—but that doesn't mean they can't bond with animals. Animal shelters often welcome volunteers. Pet sitting for friends and family might be a rewarding option too.

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