Why Women Should Take Time to Benefit From the Human-animal Bond
Each May, the Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health sponsors Women’s Health Week, which will be celebrated this year May 13-19, to remind America’s 158 million women to take care of our well-being through exercise, healthy eating, proper sleep and other important lifestyle habits. For many women, this is a challenge: about one-third of America’s women are mothers, often raising children on their own and/or working to support their families. Therefore, this week is a great reminder for women to think of No. 1 from time to time!
As a wife, mother and the president of a company, I know it’s hard to balance one’s responsibilities to work, family and self. I also recognize that I’m fortunate to receive the health benefits of working with companion animals every day.
The human-animal bond helps women in so many circumstances. A study published in 2015 found that the mental health of women with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS is improved by the presence of a pet. Elderly people who walk their dogs frequently have more active lives, better mental health and a greater sense of community. And a study published in 2014 found that women had similar emotional bonding experiences when looking at beloved dogs and their own children. With so many Americans feeling lonely and isolated, these latter studies are especially impactful regarding the importance of pet ownership.
There is always more to be done so that women maximize the health benefits of the human-animal bond. The Pet And Women Safety (PAWS) Act provides funds to shelters so that women can escape from domestic abuse with their pet instead of leaving it behind. The shocking statistic that 50 percent of abused women say they’ve returned to an abusive relationship to protect a pet lends more urgency to the PAWS Act. Women’s health should benefit from the human-animal bond, not be harmed by it.
Likewise, the Pets Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act provides grant money so that veterans can heal from PTSD through the assistance of a service dog. This includes female veterans, about one in five of whom is estimated to suffer from PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These women would likely see lower levels of depression, lower social isolation and less missed work related to health—all key benefits of the healthy habits promoted by Women’s Health Week.
No matter what kind of woman you are, Women’s Health Week is important for your well-being. We can’t accomplish what we desire or help those about whom we care without securing our own welfare first. The human-animal bond can help maximize each and every healthy lifestyle habit recommended during Women’s Health Week.
Laura “Peach” Reid is the chair of the board of directors for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) and president of Connecticut-based Fish Mart Inc.