Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found owning a pet can also reduce risk of asthma and allergies in young children.
Research has…pointed to significantly less absenteeism from school through sickness among children who live with pets.
Previous studies had confirmed lack of social relationships were a major risk factor for health, they added, rivalling the effects of other established risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.
The authors wrote: “Although support from pets should not be regarded as a replacement for help from people, the fact that pets are not human confers certain advantages; the relationships are less subject to provider burnout or to fluctuations, and they do not impose a strain or cause concern about continuing stability.
Relationships with pets seem to be of value in the early stages of bereavement and after treatment for breast cancer.
Another BMJ study also found small animals such as squirrels, owls and raccoons could help treat children with emotional and behavioural problems.
But in actual practice people do not own pets specifically to enhance their health, rather they value the relationship and the contribution their pet makes to their quality of life.