The following report was linked within another Georgia SPCA article.
The Role of Pets in Enhancing Human Well-Being: Physiological Effects
By Erika Friedmann. Reprinted from The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interactions: Benefits and Responsibilities.
People believe that pets are important. This is evident in popular culture where a dog is considered to be 'man's best friend'. In fact a multitude of articles appear in the nonprofessional press documenting the extraordinary abilities of some pets to assist, sense danger for, protect and even save their owners. While many of these claims are spurious or questionable, the public continues to look for confirmation of the popular and logical belief that pets are somehow good for people.
There are also many anecdotal reports of the benefits individuals have experienced as a result of becoming pet owners. New pet owners may become calmer, more relaxed, more willing to venture out into the world and begin interacting with people. These anecdotal reports provide confirmation that at least some people believe that pets provide concrete measurable benefits. However these reports alone do not provide sufficient evidence to substantiate this claim and the question remains, how do people benefit from their pets? There are many perspectives for addressing this
problem. The idea of physiological health benefits that might traverse the life cycle is particularly attractive. Current theories of health provide a framework to conceptualize potential physiological benefits for people from their pets.
In the latter half of the 20th century, members of the health professions have come to recognize how dramatically health depends upon interpersonal aspects of an individual's life. The influence of these factors on psychological disorders was recognized before it was realized that they had an effect on a broader range of diseases. Social, psychological and physiological factors are now widely recognized as factors influencing the development and progression of many chronic or stress related diseases. Within holistic models of health, an individual's social and psychological states are thought to determine the impact of both external and internal insults or challenges on health. Social, psychological and even spiritual factors can act either to promote health by moderating or serving as buffers in the relationship between stressors and stress related diseases, or to promote disease by enhancing or promoting pathological responses to stressors.
Within the last two decades, recognition of the role of psychosocial factors in health has expanded tremendously. The diverse group of conditions which involve psychosocial components includes, but is not limited to: asthma, cancer, colds, colitis, coronary heart disease, eczema, headaches, hypertension, impotence and ulcers. The idea that social and psychological factors can mediate the long term effects of stress, led to the investigation of their roles in the development and progression of chronic diseases which are the most common causes of death in modern society. It also provided a rationale for examining the possibility that we obtain health benefits from our pets.
To read the complete report, follow this LINK.