Pet owners live longer and better

NEW DELHI, AUG. 21. It's official. Pet owners have an edge over others and live a healthier and longer life compared to those who don't have one.

The finding is based on a study conducted by the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) funded by the State Ministry of Research and Development (BMBF). The data base is now being distributed worldwide for research and learning purposes in the hope that more and more people would benefit from the results

According to the report, the percentage of people without pets visiting a doctor was 18.5 per cent more than pet-owners.

Closer home, animal rights activists and vets are happy with the report and hoping that it would increase the number of people opting for pets and reduce the cases of cruelty against animals.

Understanding and having seen the benefits of having pets, Friendicoes claims that they would soon be starting a unique Dr. Dog programme in the Capital to fill in the "emotional gap'' of patients, especially children, who are forced to undergo long periods of stay in hospitals or at home. "The research study has only proved what we have seen and experienced for long. Pets not only improve the quality of life but also help the owner beat stress. India has had a long tradition of living alongside with dogs, horses, cats, etc, which have been an integral part of the lives of the community,'' said the vice-president of Friendicoes, Geeta Seshamani.

"We are hoping to have the Dr. Dog project running soon. This would include using a volunteer and a dog who would visit people who are in need and help in the rehabilitation of patients, specially those who are too ill or aren't economically well off to keep a pet,'' she added.

Agreeing to this, psychologist Jitendra Nagpal of VIMHANS adds that having pets at home have often proves beneficial and is extensively used in therapies. "Also such therapies have no side-effects and people show a sustained positive influences. The research study proves what we have been using for long and finally we have it documented now. We are aware of the fact that a pet can lead to a healthier, fuller and more stress-free life,'' said Dr. Nagpal.

According to the report, the pet-ownership tenure also has an influence on the health of the owner. By and large, those who had a pet for more than five years benefited the most. On the contrary, the loss of a pet results in visits to the doctor, which was comparable in number to those without pets.

The team has been collecting data on the population and patterns since 1984 and the uniqueness of the data is that it largely focused on people surveyed earlier.

"This was basically done so that one has a wider analysis of the lifestyles and household over a longer period of time and the survey contacted 24,000 people,'' claimed the report.