Got stress?

Get fish.We've been hearing for some time that dogs and cats were beneficial in helping their owners lead more healthful lives. Now comes news that fish do the same thing.

A recent survey sponsored by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that fish are just about the neatest thing since vitamins when it comes to your health. And even Utah school principals may have cause to agree.

According to the survey:

- People who do not own fish are more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure than people who keep fish as pets.

- Non-fish owners said they regularly suffer from stress more than 10 percent more often than fish owners.

- Sixty percent of the respondents who own fish say they do not suffer from any stress-related maladies, while half of non-fish owners say they experience ailments, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, stress or headaches.

- Close to 55 percent of respondents who own fish never have trouble sleeping, while 79 percent who do not own fish say they have spells of insomnia.

- Fish owners are four times more likely than non-fish owners to characterize their relationship with their mate as "loving, like June and Ward Cleaver."

- Sixty-five percent of non-fish owners missed at least two days of work last year due to illness, while only 44 percent of fish owners missed that much work. Fish owners are 57 percent more likely to view their work environment as "easy and not stressful" than non-fish owners.

And if all that were not enough, there's more good news: Fish owners are less likely to overeat due to stress, are not as susceptible to bouts of jealousy, take way fewer antacids and are more likely to participate in activities such as jogging, swimming and skiing as non-fish owners.

All that from something you can't cuddle, play fetch with or sleep by. On the other hand, fish don't shed or make noise, either. (Of course, there's no mention of the stress that might result from your goldfish going belly-up in its bowl; but, hey, nothing's perfect.)

Steve Oliverson, assistant principal at Provo High School, is a believer in fish. Since the school put an aquarium in one of its hallways, he has noticed a positive impact on the kids.

"We didn't put it in for that reason. We put it in for the aesthetics." But he's noticed that it's been something the students have enjoyed. "Overall, the behavior in the area around the aquarium has been better. They've kept the area clean, they've taken pride in it. They've been excited." And, yes, he thinks the fish have had a calming effect. "I guess that's why they put them in hospital waiting rooms."

The school started with one large aquarium under a leasing arrangement. But that didn't work too well, said Oliverson, so the school now has six smaller tanks that are maintained by the science club.

Do students do better on tests? Have there been fewer arguments? Are they ready to go save the world?

Well, nobody's going that far. "But they do really like to spend time watching the fish. And it gives them something else to talk about," Oliverson said.

Maybe there's some deep allegory there: teens swimming through the halls of high school like fish in a huge tank. Or, maybe that's a fish story for another day. For now, maybe it's enough to know that those little bits of fin and scales simply rank right up there with sliced bread in benefiting our modern world. Got stress? You could do a lot worse than getting fish.