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Those of us who are pet owners know that having a dog or cat - or bird, reptile, amphibian, or rodent, depending on your interests - makes life a little bit better. Each breed and individual animal has its quirks, but generally, there is a bond between owner and pet. In the case of dogs and (some) cats, they're waiting when you come home, ready to play, in some cases looking like they're actually smiling because they've been reunited with you after a WHOLE day apart.

Have you ever noticed that being around a pet has a calming effect on your mental and emotional state? Certainly, there are some pets that bring rambunctious energy everywhere they go, but there are others that seem to simply enjoy being nearby. The calming effect of pets is no illusion. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence for many health benefits associated with frequent interaction with animals. According to a report released by HABRI, the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, pet ownership and exposure may be associated with:

  • long-term survival following a heart attack
  • lowered rates of multi-drug resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infection among nursing home residents
  • modest improvement in cholesterol levels
  • increased physical activity (for dog owners who regularly walk their dogs)
  • a likely decrease in cardiovascular disease due to lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity
  • stress reduction
  • increased food intake in Alzheimer's patients
  • reduction in allergies
  • increased mental health

HABRI's report compiles data from a wide range of studies and other sources, drawing the logical conclusion that, because pet ownership is shown to be associated with better health in a variety of areas, it also lowers total healthcare spending. In particular, they focus on two main areas where this is likely:

Savings based on a reduced number of physician office visits by pet owners (0.6 fewer visits on average each year): Using a conservative figure to estimate the cost per physician office visit, the authors estimate pet ownership saves $11,370,651,000 in health costs each year.

Savings based on a reduced incidence of obesity in dog owners who regularly walk their pets (5% lower than non-owners): Conservatively estimating the yearly healthcare costs associated with obesity, the authors estimate dog ownership reduces healthcare costs by more than $419,000,000 a year.

Combining these two figures, the total savings that can be attributed to pet ownership adds up to at least $11.8 billion annually!

Not only is this is a significant reduction in the burden on our nation's already struggling healthcare system, but it is also one that is dependent upon individual freedom, rather than bureaucratic solutions dependent upon intrusion, regulation, and compulsion. That's something we here at Liberty HealthShare can get behind.

As a medical cost-sharing ministry, our goal is to empower our members to take control of their health and how they pay for healthcare. One of the main ways in which our costs are controlled and lowered is through a consistent commitment to improved health. Our members are part of a voluntary community that has agreed together, on the basis of shared Christian beliefs, to share in one another's eligible medical costs. Members have also agreed to properly steward their bodies and their health out of the knowledge that they have a moral and ethical responsibility to God and to one another to take good care of themselves and so preserve the finances and sharing power of the membership.

Liberty HealthShare-staff-pets.jpgThe photos you see here are pets owned by members of the Liberty HealthShare team. As you can see, pet ownership is part of many of our staff members' lives, contributing a sense of greater happiness and purpose to each day. Who wouldn't want that? Based on the research done by HABRI, there are multiple reasons for Liberty to wholeheartedly endorse the pet-owner lifestyle. Our mission is not only to educate our members on wise healthcare consumerism and the reduction of healthcare costs but also to help our members achieve and maintain greater health. It seems pets are the perfect fit!

Attention, dog lovers: as an added bonus, click the "play" button below to view Liberty HealthShare's interview with two chaplains (and two of their furry friends) from Canines for Christ, an animal-assisted therapy ministry that uses ordinary people and their beloved dogs to share God's message of love, hope, kindness, and compassion to the community.