CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- Couples who own cats or dogs have closer relationships, are more satisfied in marriage and respond better to stress than couples who do not, a new University at Buffalo study has shown.
Measures of heart rate and blood pressure taken during a situation known to be a source of conflict between spouses showed that systolic blood-pressure readings of couples with pets were lower at baseline, rose less in response to stress and returned to baseline quicker than in couples without pets.
Pet-owning couples also had more frequent contacts with each other and with others, and those most attached to their pets had the most interactions with their spouses, according to the findings.
Results of the research were presented here today (Thursday, March 12) at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.
"Many studies have shown that social support is protective of cardiovascular health," said Karen Allen, Ph.D., UB research scientist and author of the study. "We know that people who have many social interactions are healthier than people who don't. In this study, people who owned pets had significantly more interactions with other people than couples who didn't.
"We don't know specifically why this is so. Pet-owners may be the kind of people who inherently seek out more social contact. On the other hand, there may be something in the relationship between people and pets that enhances social interaction. It's also possible that for some people, contacts with a pet provide the same healthful psychological and physiological benefits as human contact."
Allen studied 100 couples, 50 who owned either cats or dogs, and 50 with no pets in the household.
Participants completed standard questionnaires that measured relationship closeness, marital adjustment, interpersonal support and pet attachment. They also kept a two-week diary recording the number and diversity of social cont
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo