So-called Pet Effect Lacks Confirmation

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CULLOWHEE, N.C., Aug. 5 (UPI) — Existing research on the health benefits of pet ownership has produced conflicting results and confirmation is needed, a U.S. researcher suggests.

Harold Herzog, a professor of Psychology at the Western Carolina University, says there simply isn’t strong evidence for the general claim that living with a pet makes for a happier, healthier or longer life.

Some studies suggest owning a pet is associated with positive health outcomes like reduced rates of depression or lower blood pressure, while other studies suggest people are no better off for owning pets, Herzog says.

The reason for the inconsistencies, Herzog suggests, is that studies on pet ownership often suffer from methodological problems, such as small, homogeneous samples, lack of appropriate control groups and reliance on self-reporting to measure participants’ health and well-being.

Very few studies have used the kind of experimental design necessary to show that pets actually cause improvements in their owners’ health and happiness, Herzog says.

“It’s entirely plausible that our pets really do provide medical and psychological benefits, but we just don’t know how strong that effect is, what types of people it works for, and what the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms might be,” Herzog says in a statement.

The study is published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science.

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