Author: Kelsey Ryan
Living with a pet comes with many benefits, such as companionship, responsibility and unconditional love – it is not a shock that the majority of pet owners consider their furry friends to be a member of their family. Many people claim that their pets offer support through some of life’s toughest challenges, by simply just being present. In recent years, more research has been conducted to study the bond between humans and animals, assessing the mental health and physical health benefits of pet ownership. In a survey conducted by The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), 74% of pet owners reported feeling that their mental health improved with having a pet in their home (2016).
The bond an individual has with their pet can do a lot to support positive well-being. Pets can help to alleviate stress, manage anxiety, depression and combat feelings of loneliness.
In a study conducted in 2016 by BMC Psychiatry, the role of pets in social interactions of their owners who were dealing with chronic mental health problems found that pets offered emotional support as well as providing a sense of “security and routine” for their owners (Brooks, Rushron, Walker, Lovell, & Rogers, 2016). This study also found that most participants considered their pets to be within their inner network of support. Indicating that pets can play a beneficial and supportive role in their owner’s lives.
Some ways in which pets can positively impact an individual’s well-being could include:
- Lifting spirits and reducing stress
- Reducing depression and anxiety symptoms
- Increasing a sense of well-being
- Minimizing feelings of isolation
- Encouragement to be more active
- Increasing a sense of responsibility and purpose
And so many more!
The positive impacts of pets on mental health is a new idea, thus, studies around this topic are minimal and further research is needed to truly assess the extent to which this relationship plays a role in symptomology decrease. But most animal lovers will argue, there is no better comfort than an adoring pet.
Brooks, H., Rushron, K., Walker, S., Lovell, K., & Rogers, A. (2016). Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry .
Feldman, S. (n.d.). Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect. Retrieved from Anxiety and Depression Association of America
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute. (2016). Survey: Pet Owners and the Human Animal Bond. 2016 Pet Owner Survey.