As people who know me may be aware, I love my cat Simon (That`s him in the picture). I adopted him from the Humane Association six years ago after my psychiatrist and a friend urged me to get a cat. It`s been one of the best decisions I`ve ever made. Though in my opinion Simon has been a mental health aid to me, apparently scientific research concludes otherwise. In the NY Times column`Fido`s No Doctor. Neither is Whiskers` by Hal Herzog, it points out several studies that show that pet owners do not make for healthier people. Here`s an excerpt:
A 2006 survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center, for instance, reported that living with a pet did not make people any happier. Similarly, a 2000 Australian study of mortality rates found no evidence that pet owners lived any longer than anyone else. And last year Dutch researchers concluded that companion animals had no effect on their owners’ physical or mental well-being. Worse, in 2006, epidemiologists in Finland reported that pet owners were more likely than non-pet owners to suffer from sciatica, kidney disease, arthritis, migraines, panic attacks, high blood pressure and depression.
This pattern of mixed results also holds true for the widely heralded notion that animals can cure various physical afflictions. For example, a study of people with chronic fatigue syndrome found that while pet owners believed that interacting with their pets relieved their symptoms, objective analysis revealed that they were just as tired, stressed, worried and unhappy as sufferers in a control group who had no pets. Similarly, a clinical trial of cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy found that interacting with therapy dogs did no more to enhance the participants’ morale than reading a book did.
As for the presumed curative powers of swimming with dolphins, researchers at Emory University who reviewed the dolphin therapy studies concluded that every one purporting to document positive health effects was methodologically flawed.
Okay, so maybe Simon the cat isn`t a scientifically proven antidepressant. But the fact that I`m still alive is enough evidence that he`s had some part in making that happen.