I would like to dedicate this post to Jane Dison, the executive director with the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities.
Comfort, solace, companionship, and bonding are all basic human needs. Dr. Corn of UBC talks about one of the newest trends in medical research, which focuses on the relationship between people and their pets and the effect this has on their physical and mental wellbeing.
The scientific data is unequivocal in showing that dogs can be a significant factor in reducing stress responses in all people, and can have a major beneficial effect on special groups, such as persons with physical and mental disabilities, seniors and others who may be socially isolated.
The medical recognition of the significance of the human-animal bond and its influence on human psychological health has become a subject of serious research. Human findings include: lower blood pressure, relaxed heart rate, regular breathing and less muscle tension — all signs of reduced stress. Individuals with disabilities are particularly susceptible to stress. Up to 25 percent of people who seek the services of general practitioner do so for depressive and anxiety disorders.
Depression is considered to be much more disabling, socially and physically, than many chronic conditions. Although depression can be caused by many factors, one of the most common is loneliness. People who lack human contact often benefit from pet ownership and the emotional bond that pets provide.
Recently researchers looked at a group of people 60 and older living alone or only with a pet. Non–pet owners were four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than were pet owners of the same age. The evidence also showed that pet owners required fewer medical services and were more satisfied overall with their lives.
In the year 2010, Dr. Arby Fine edited a stunning collection of chapters on animal-assisted therapy, theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice, in which the authors explore the animal-human bond — from the use of animals with individuals with autism spectrum disorder, to human-animal interactions in successful aging.
Animals have become an important part of the lives of many people of all ages, and there are now numerous studies to support the beneficial effects, both physiological and psychosocial.