Are cat and dog owners healthier than others? The conclusion of a 42,000 people survey in California 1 is that ‘there is no evidence of a positive impact of pet ownership per se on the general health [of the participants]’. In other words pets don’t improve your health. Other factors have an impact it seems. This finding is controversial because millions of internet pages tell us that pets improve our health.
One argument is that wealthier people, who are considerably more likely to have a cat and/or dog have better access to higher quality food and medical care. In a study by the Brookings Institute the top ten percent in respect of income live on average ten more years than those in the bottom ten percent.
The graph above shows that cat and dog owners consider themselves to be healthier than others (the survey involved asking questions) but when other factors were taken into account this improvement in health was erased.
Other findings from the California Health Interview Survey of the relationship between cat and dog owners and health are as follows:
The body mass index of dog owners was higher than for non-pet owners but only slightly. Cat owners’ BMI was no different to non-cat owners.
Cat and dog owners are 20% more likely to have asthma. This does not necessarily mean that cats and dogs cause asthma.
Note: the study was started in 2001. This makes it ‘a decade old’ (Psychology Today). And of course the study was done in one state of the USA: California. Also we don’t know how long the individuals lived with their cats and dogs.
P.S. On a personal note it is irrelevant to me if my cat improves my health or not. There are strong benefits for me in living with a cat companion even if one of those benefits might not be an improvement in my health.
1. California Health Interview Survey begun in 2001 and ongoing.
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