New HABRI Survey: A Pet is Just What the Doctor Ordered
By Ed Sayres
We already know that pets benefit human health and enhance our quality of life at all stages – from early childhood all the way through our later years. People living with pets report less stress and a greater sense of wellbeing. Research has shown that having pets in society results in an overall decrease in health care costs, and pet-friendly workplaces reduce employee stress and increase job satisfaction.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The proof – already persuasive – is becoming more specific all the time. Scientific studies have shown evidence of the benefits of human-animal bond in treating a number of specific medical conditions. The list includes cardiovascular disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism spectrum disorder, childhood allergies and immunity, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, various neurological disorders and cancer.
Now physicians have weighed in as never before.
In the largest survey of its kind to explore doctors’ knowledge and attitudes towards the human health benefits of pets, the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) recently conducted an online panel survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners. The 28-question survey, conducted in late August, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%. The doctors interviewed have an average of 18 years of practice experience.
Yesterday HABRI released its survey results, showing that physicians enthusiastically support the role that pets can play in improving our health and welfare:
Most doctors (69%) have successfully worked with animals to assist patient therapy or treatment.
They report that interactions with animals improve patients’ physical condition (88%), mental health (97%), mood or outlook (98%) and relationships with staff (76%).
Physicians overwhelmingly (97%) believe that there are health benefits to owning pets.
Most doctors (60%) have recommended to a patient getting a pet; 43% recommended the pet to improve overall health, and 17% did so for a specific condition.
Most physicians have seen patient health improve as a result of pet ownership. 75% of doctors said they saw the overall health of one or more of their patients improve, and 87% said their patients’ mood or outlook improved.
Doctors are willing to prescribe pets. 74% of doctors said they would prescribe a pet to improve overall health if the medical evidence supported it, while 8% said they would prescribe a pet for a specific condition.
Clearly, pets are good for our health. What else does this new data mean for us?
It means that pets play a vital role in our lives, in our families and in our society.
It means that we all need to take proper care of our companion animals, whatever the species, all the way from breeder to our homes.
It means that pet ownership is an important right worth protecting.
It means that, with different reasons for selecting certain animals, consumers should have the greatest possible choice in finding the pet that best fits their requirements.
This new research – and other studies that HABRI has underway and planned for the future – is critical in advancing our knowledge and understanding of the role that caring for a pet plays in caring for our ourselves. I’ll continue to keep you posted here on new data and developments.