Does Having a Pet Keep You Out of The Doctor’s Office?

As college students, stress is a concept that is near and dear to our hearts, literally… The subject of stress relief is very important to deal with on college campuses because stress can have a detrimental effect on students’ happiness and grades while attending college. During the process of researching ways to deal with stress, which involved sorting through the mountains of breathing exercises; I stumbled upon something that caught my attention, having pets might alleviate stress. After doing a bit of research I still had a couple of questions.

  1.     Just how much do pets help relieve stress?
  2.     What is it about pets that makes humans less stressed?

After further research, I came across a study run by Karen Allen, Ph.D. at University at Buffalo. In this study, Allen assembled a group of 48 Wall Street bankers who had histories of high blood pressure. The group was composed of 24 males and 24 females who had no history of smoking and no other current medical conditions. The last important feature of the individuals in this group was that they lived alone and had not had pets in the last 5 years. They were randomly assigned to one of two groups, experimental and control. All of the prerequisites the participants in the study had to meet helped eliminate possible confounding variables. In this study, the independent variable was whether or not the participants were given pets. The dependent variables were blood pressure and heart rate which were both measurements of participants’ stress levels. After 6 months of treatment for blood pressure in the control group and, for those in the experimental group, time with their pets, the blood pressures and heart rates of the subjects were taken. When put under stress, the blood pressure and heart rate of those in the control group jumped up to nearly pre-treatment levels while those who were in the experimental group averaged a relatively healthy 10 BPM increase in heart rate. The experimental group also experienced an average increase in systolic blood pressure of 8 mm/Hg, and an average increase in diastolic blood pressure of 9 mm/Hg, both of which would be expected from healthy individuals.


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After seeing these results, I was shocked by that fact that just having a pet could have that drastic of an effect on your physical well being. While this study did not talk about the P-value that they could have gotten, it seems that with as big of a difference in results between the two groups, the P-value would be extremely small. One problem that could have caused this experiment to show misleading results was the small size of the group that was being examined.


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While having a pet can be a burden for some individuals, the benefits outweigh the time and expenses of caring for an animal. This investment can score you a daily companion, as well as lead you to live a healthier lifestyle. The vast amount of benefits make it hard to argue that owning a pet is not a worthwhile decision for those that are regularly exposed to high pressure environments.

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