Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - Page 14 News List

US study questions if pets make owners healthier
養寵物較健康? 未必盡然

A man balances his cat on his head as he takes advantage of the sun in Union Square Park in New York on July 11.

Photo: AFP

Pet owners have long been encouraged to think that they are happier, healthier and live longer than people without pets, but a new US study claims they might be barking up the wrong tree.

Howard Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says studies conducted in the past to determine whether having a pet improves health and longevity have “produced a mishmash of conflicting results.”

“While pets are undoubtedly good for some people, there is presently insufficient evidence to support the contention that pet owners are healthier or happier or that they live longer” than people without pets, Herzog wrote in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

“While some researchers have reported that positive effects accrue from interacting with animals, others have found that the health and happiness of pet owners is no better, and in some cases worse, than that of non-pet owners.”

Herzog cites several studies purportedly showing the benefits of having a pet, including one from 1980 which showed that heart attack victims who had a pet were around four times more likely than petless victims to survive for a year after the crisis, but said more gloomy studies had been ignored.

“While the media abounds with stories extolling the health benefits of pets, studies in which pet ownership has been found to have no impact or even negative effects on human physical or mental health rarely make headlines,” he said.

He cited another study which found no difference in blood pressure between older pet-owners and the petless. In fact, the pet owners in that study exercised less than the non-owners and were more likely to be overweight.


1. barking up the wrong tree



(zi4 wo2 gan3 jue2 liang2 hao3; zhao3 cuo4 ren2 le5)

例: If you think she’ll help you, I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree.


2. mishmash n.

混合 (hun4 he2)

例: The salad was a mishmash of nuts, fruits, vegetables, eggs and half a dozen dressings.


3. cornucopia n.

大量 (da4 liang4)

例: There is a cornucopia of viruses spreading throughout that region of the country right now, so be sure to get vaccinated before traveling there.


Moreover, he said pets — which can be found in two-thirds of US households — bring with them a cornucopia of health problems that can be transmitted to humans such as giardia, salmonella poisoning, skin mites and worms.











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