UAlbany conducts research study linking pet ownership and health

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – According to a new research study conducted by the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, pets might do more than just provide companionship.

Two studies were conducted by Environmental Health Sciences professors Shao Lin and Michael Bloom along with PhD student Tia Marks and an international team to explore the relationship between pet ownership, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and health; finding that pets may provide protective health benefits in some instances, while increasing risk in others.

The first study, published in Science of the Total Environment and Environmental Research, looked at whether or not exposure to pets influences the association between high blood pressure in kids and environmental tobacco smoke. The second study looked at the relationship of environmental tobacco smoke and lung functionality during different time periods.

Blood pressure and other basic measurements were reportedly collected, along with a questionnaire completed by the parents of 9,354 children between the ages of 5 and 17 from 62 schools in seven northeastern cities in China from 2012-2013. The team reportedly found that children who were exposed to pets were at a lower risk of having high blood pressure associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke than those who were not exposed to pets. Additionally, the protective effects of pet ownership reportedly became stronger with a greater number of pets in the home.

For the second study the team reportedly collected lung function data from 7,326 children between the ages of 7 and 14 by spirometry, which evaluates how much air is inhaled and exhaled. Information on pet ownership time periods and tobacco smoke exposure were gathered by parental questionnaire.

The results showed that the time window of pet ownership may have an influence on the effects of smoke on lung function; Pet exposure in utero and during the first two years of life, but not current ownership, increased the risk of impairment of lung function associated with environmental tobacco smoke.

“These studies provide significant insight into how owning pets may influence the relationship between environmental tobacco smoke and children’s health,” said Bloom and Lin. “While the studies took place in China, cardiovascular and respiratory issues are prevalent worldwide, so these results merit further investigation among children from other populations.”

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