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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  17:37:20  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I just finished reading the article "What's the Use of Pets" in the most recent issue of Orion Magazine. The article, by Ginger Strand, and completely available online, makes numerous observations and reflections from attending a Pet Expo. Absurd anthropomorphism combined with conspicuous consumption is the bulk of the article, but below is an excerpt that most intrigued my skeptical side:

In the afternoon I go to a press conference at the Reef One booth. I stand next to an energetic blond man with wire-rimmed glasses.

“Marty Becker,” he announces, holding out a hand. He smiles as if I'm supposed to recognize the name, which I don't. I shake his hand and then we turn to listen as Reef One director Paul Stevenson announces his company's donation of spherical biOrb aquariums to autism treatment centers. Watching fish, he explains, can both reduce stress and increase attention spans. Then he hands the mike to Marty Becker, who turns out to be a celebrity-vet, coauthor of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul and frequent talking head on Good Morning America.

“We've always known that pets made us feel good,” Dr. Marty Becker says. “We just didn't know that pets were good for us. And there's an increasing body of research that proves it.”

Becker is referring to studies such as a 1995 report in the American Journal of Cardiology, which found that dog owners had a decreased risk of dying within one year of a heart attack, or a 2001 study in Hypertension, which reported that stressed pet owners had lower blood pressure than stressed people without pets. More recent studies have questioned these results, finding them unconfirmed, inconclusive, and contradictory. The media, however, love the notion that pets might have health benefits. And so do most people. The crowd melts into warm fuzzy applause after Becker speaks. I page through my spiral-bound National Pet Owners Survey as camera strobes strafe Marty. Fifty-seven percent of dog owners, I read, believe their dog is good for their family's health.

The idea of pets as stress relief feels familiar—yesterday's moral elevation has become today's therapeutic relief—but it's a throwback too. It returns us to an older view of animals, the view that saw them as our tools. Having made our animals useless, we find ourselves trying to manufacture new uses for them. Perhaps it grows out of the longing Berger described: if having them brings us health benefits, our animals become essential again, something more than an accessory carried around like a handbag.

I remember reading a few years ago about how petting a fuzzy animal such as a cat or dog showed reduced stress levels, but I don't remember where I read it or how the results were qualified. I wish Strand had gone more into detail about the studies that I highlighted in bold above. What I am really curious about is what studies have been done on pets' affect on peoples' mental health, and what do those studies say?




"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com


Edited by - marfknox on 10/02/2007 17:39:12

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  17:48:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Stress isn't some slow-to-change value like cholesterol. It can go up and down by the hour, minute, or even second. More and more I'm coming to the conclusion that just about anything can make the claim that it "reduces stress," making it essentially medically meaningless.

That said, I'm willing to buy the idea that older pet owners may live longer or healthier lives based on the fact that they feel "needed." We all know depression is a killer. Having responsibilities makes people take better care of themselves since they don't want to let others down.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 10/02/2007 17:49:43
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  18:48:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From Science Daily:
Explanations for the association between pet ownership and human health include social benefits and emotional support. Indeed, studies have shown that support from pets may mirror some of the elements of human relationships known to contribute to health.

However, conflict between health and pet ownership can arise, say the authors. For instance, it is thought that up to 70% of pet owners would disregard advice to get rid of a pet because of allergies, while reports abound of older people avoiding medical care through fear of being admitted to hospital or residential care as this often means giving up a pet.


Old from National Institutes of Health:
There are many promising areas of research related to potential health benefits of companion animals that would not only advance our comprehension of how to best utilize animals therapeutically but also would provide insight into the very nature of the link between people and animals in the general population. The major research questions include:

1. For whom is animal interaction most beneficial?
2. For whom and where is animal interaction problematic?
3. How is contact with animals beneficial? and
4. Are different species of animals, and even plants, important to human health?

Future knowledge and research efforts should be directed toward specific health benefits of pets in the following areas:

* Pets have a special place in the lives of people but, in larger perspective, share many attributes of other members of the living environment. The value of this environment to the physical and mental health of people should be better understood. Specific research, from this perspective, is needed.
* Data are needed to address issues of how to assess optimal candidate populations that most benefit from pets and what relationships serve to produce effects of sufficient magnitude and duration to be of lasting benefit. Such studies are needed for all candidate populations and include cardiovascular, developmental, and psychosocial issues.
* The relationship between animals and cardiovascular disease is intriguing and needs to be aggressively studied. Specific studies are needed in at least two areas in followup to work reported here. An understanding is needed of the differences in the effect of "bonding" between a person and his pet versus simply the effect of a strange animal on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Also, large clinical prospective studies are needed in which animals are randomly placed with postmyocardial infarction patients to examine the magnitude and longevity of protective effects. These studies on people should be repeated on nonhuman animals to generate and test hypotheses about mechanisms of action.
* It is evident that interpretation of results in this area of research is particularly difficult due to the lack of long-term clinical and epidemiological data. Much clarity would be achieved by the reexamination of large, national, epidemiological studies and by the addition of animal-related and pet ownership and demographic questions on future national health surveys. Consideration of pet exposure as a possible "protective" factor in scientific studies of human health would be cost-effective and is an idea whose time has come. This research area would be facilitated greatly if animal ownership patterns could be added to many ongoing studies.
* The relatively low order of significance of many of the test results points to the importance of rigorous statistical methodology. Sample sizes, likewise, have not been sufficient in many cases to support definitive conclusions. Due to the great number of pets in American households, however, a positive impact of even a few tenths of a percentage point may benefit tens of thousands of people. The U.S. census also should begin to include questions on the number and types of animals in people's homes. If this were done, we could begin to address a variety of public health issues, including potential zoonoses with long incubation periods and subtle positive effects of animals on chronic and stress-related diseases.
* Studies suggest that pets should be beneficial to some children through the facilitation of stable relationships with peers and adults, yet these studies are limited due to the small numbers and disproportionate samples from upper and middle classes. Prospective longitudinal studies should be conducted across racial and socioeconomic boundaries to determine long-term consequences and to identify specific populations, conditions, and experiences, with or without pets, that put children at risk for developing problems in social, emotional, and cognitive development.
* There has been extensive consideration of the benefit of pets to older persons. In most cases, these applications simply have been in acknowledgment of the psychosocial benefit of animal visitation and live-in programs to the institutionalized person, and have not been rigorous studies. Because of the rapidly increasing size of the elderly population and the overwhelming evidence, anecdotal and large-scale surveys, additional studies are needed to focus on this population. Future studies should recognize the heterogeneity of this population and the difficulty in isolating the many variables impinging on the older person. Such variables stem from illness, prior experiences with or without pets, and expectations of the benefit of pets (as contrasted to the reality of caring for the pet). This research should consider the use of existing explanatory models to serve as a unifying theoretical base.
* European literature on the use of therapeutic horseback riding should be made readily available in English and the knowledge assimilated. Future research should identify the specific emotional, cognitive, and sensorimotor effects of therapeutic riding on movement disorders and compare these effects with that of other clinical treatment procedures that do not involve the horse.
* The value of companion animals for visually handicapped persons has long been known. More recently, similar animals have proven equally effective for the hearing impaired. New research is needed to extend these relationships to further identify the benefit of companion animals to other handicapped persons such as paraplegics and quadriplegics.

Pets and Human Cardiovascular Health

It concludes:
Pets can buffer reactivity to acute stress in ways that people do not, as well as fill social support roles for their owners.


Seems that there may be health benefits from pet ownership but the jury is still out as to exactly what and why.

I can say this. Watching my turtle (and in the past, fish) does seem to have a calming effect on me. And when my cat lies on my chest and purrs as I pet him, same thing… A calming effect.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  18:50:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The only pets I ever had were some fish in an aquarium. And most of them went belly up when I fed them cookies.

Oh, yeah I forgot...

Until I moved together with my girlfriend I had a couple of dust-bunnies. And they did what bunnies do best: more bunnies...


Edited to add:
Also, there was a very strong correlation between my low stress-levels and the dust-bunnies.

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Edited by - Dr. Mabuse on 10/02/2007 18:57:10
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  20:02:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
while reports abound of older people avoiding medical care through fear of being admitted to hospital or residential care as this often means giving up a pet.
I never thought about it before (probably cause I'm decades away from thinking about this sort of thing for myself), but I think I'd be rather miserable without pets. I've always had lots of pets except the year I taught in Korea, and that year I missed having pets severely.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  22:12:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
When I had my stroke, I immediately crawled around and made arrangements for my dog's care before I called an ambulance. As it turned out, that was probably unlikely to have caused me any problem, as no cots were found. But it could have. It was a risk I felt worth taking, as I could not leave my one companion in life behind unattended.

Having a dog makes me happier and less lonely. Any beneficial effects upon my stress levels would simply be a bonus. I'd want a dog in the house even if it contributed to bad health in a minor way.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 10/02/2007 22:14:25
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Ghost_Skeptic
SFN Regular

Canada
510 Posts

Posted - 10/02/2007 :  23:37:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ghost_Skeptic a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Pets may have a paradoxical physical benefit. I recall a study that showed that children who were exposed to a dog during the first year of their life were less likely to develop allerigies. This was attributed to the bacteria the children were exposed to giving their immune systems real threats to deal with so they didn't react to harmless substances.

I also recall at study that showed that petting a dog lowered a persons blood pressure after a while. The dog's blood pressure responded almost immeditaley inidcating it got the most benefit.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. / You can send a kid to college but you can't make him think." - B.B. King

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Starman
SFN Regular

Sweden
1613 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  01:15:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Starman a Private Message  Reply with Quote
http://www.thepaincomics.com/weekly010905.htm
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  02:12:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I can only speak from personal experience, for whatever that's worth, and I'd say that in my case, certainly. But then, until recently, I've always had some livestock around, mostly in transit but a few permenant residents (few of which anyone really wants to pet and only one of which purrs).

I find watching a well set-up aquarum very relaxing.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  03:27:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Halfmooner wrote:
I'd want a dog in the house even if it contributed to bad health in a minor way.
This goes well with the last paragraph of the article:
But the love heaped—even lavished in commodity form—on his warm animal body suggests a human attitude toward the nonhuman world that, for once, is not about mastery. Even in its consumerist drift, it short-circuits market logic by giving without a guaranteed return. There must be some real value in that.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  06:21:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

Halfmooner wrote:
I'd want a dog in the house even if it contributed to bad health in a minor way.
This goes well with the last paragraph of the article:
But the love heaped—even lavished in commodity form—on his warm animal body suggests a human attitude toward the nonhuman world that, for once, is not about mastery. Even in its consumerist drift, it short-circuits market logic by giving without a guaranteed return. There must be some real value in that.

I agree. I think the main function of pets is as substitute children, a role that some, like cats and especially dogs, are ideally suited to play. Taking our nourishing parental role is fulfilling.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  07:49:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
'mooner:
I agree. I think the main function of pets is as substitute children, a role that some, like cats and especially dogs, are ideally suited to play. Taking our nourishing parental role is fulfilling.
Speak for yourself. I've been tolorating a useless cat that I never really wanted for some 17 years, now. The kids stuck me with her when they left home -- "Daddy, daddy, we wanna kitty!"

Due to extreme lazyness, the cat catches no house mice, of which I have a plentitude, but she will sit under the bird feeders for hours, apparently unable to realize that she is out in plain sight and birds aren't all that stupid. She whines to go out and then might change her mind as soon as you open the door, or, failing that, she'll whine to come back in three minutes later. I have a cat flap, but she won't use it if there is anyone around misguided enough to open the damned door for her.

When out, she'll guard the front steps like a small, hairy gargoyl and pick a fight with any other cat that passes by, usually when I'm trying to enjoy a little music as I read or write.

She eats more than she's worth and her bowl must be kept full of disgusting kibble at all times, otherwise she'll get underfoot, yowling with pitious indignation, and believe me, this is not something that a crippled man needs. I still have a sore & swollen knee from day before yesterday, the most recent incident of stumbling over the idiot moggie and crashing into the ice box. To top it off, she's the same stale piss color as the kitchen linolium and I can barely see her at best of times.

And she refuses to assume responsibility for anything! Fucking cat must be a Republican....




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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pleco
SFN Addict

USA
2996 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  08:26:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit pleco's Homepage Send pleco a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've had aquariums the past few years. I find the setup and maintenance to be relaxing and satisfying. It is a good hobby. As to the actual fish, well, after a while when the "newness" wears off, I find I don't watch them very much except when I feed them.

I plan on getting a dog soon. I was raised with dogs in the house, and I miss having one. I just have to make sure I can devote the proper time for a dog.

by Filthy
The neo-con methane machine will soon be running at full fart.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  08:36:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by filthy

'mooner:
I agree. I think the main function of pets is as substitute children, a role that some, like cats and especially dogs, are ideally suited to play. Taking our nourishing parental role is fulfilling.
Speak for yourself. I've been tolorating a useless cat that I never really wanted for some 17 years, now. The kids stuck me with her when they left home -- "Daddy, daddy, we wanna kitty!"

Due to extreme lazyness, the cat catches no house mice, of which I have a plentitude, but she will sit under the bird feeders for hours, apparently unable to realize that she is out in plain sight and birds aren't all that stupid. She whines to go out and then might change her mind as soon as you open the door, or, failing that, she'll whine to come back in three minutes later. I have a cat flap, but she won't use it if there is anyone around misguided enough to open the damned door for her.

When out, she'll guard the front steps like a small, hairy gargoyl and pick a fight with any other cat that passes by, usually when I'm trying to enjoy a little music as I read or write.

She eats more than she's worth and her bowl must be kept full of disgusting kibble at all times, otherwise she'll get underfoot, yowling with pitious indignation, and believe me, this is not something that a crippled man needs. I still have a sore & swollen knee from day before yesterday, the most recent incident of stumbling over the idiot moggie and crashing into the ice box. To top it off, she's the same stale piss color as the kitchen linolium and I can barely see her at best of times.

And she refuses to assume responsibility for anything! Fucking cat must be a Republican....




See? Just like having a kid.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  09:05:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
No, sooner or later kids leave home; the cat is turning out to be forever. I'm all but convinced that wretched animal is immortal -- 17 years old & still winning fights.

So let my misfortune be a lesson to all; don't let the kids talk you into anything. You'll live to regret it. Oh, and good luck with that....




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 10/03/2007 :  09:35:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

I remember reading a few years ago about how petting a fuzzy animal such as a cat or dog showed reduced stress levels...
It's a sure thing that my cats weren't a part of that study. Reach down to pet them, and you've got a 50/50 shot at getting them to purr, or pulling back a bloody stump where your hand once was. The worst, of course, is when one purrs for a little while and then without warning turns into a screaming ball of whirling teeth and claws.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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