Mental health benefits of owning a pet

May 17, 2019 by

Find out the many benefits of having a pet, from improving mood and self-esteem to teaching your kids prosocial behaviour.It is well known that owning a pet has many benefits on your physical and mental health. On an emotional level though, pet owners were found happier, healthier, and better adjusted than non-owners. Some of the benefits of pet ownership are the following:

1. Relieves depression, stress, and anxiety

More precisely, a study done by Freidmann and Thomas[1] , found that pets can decrease owners’depression and anxiety. They also found that petting and playing with animals reduces stress-related hormones and increases levels of “happiness hormones” after just five minutes. This “pet-effect” is not necessarily attributed to touch: the mere presence of pet dogs during the performance of a stressful task helps to relieve stress.

2. Teaches prosocial behavior

According to research by Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals[2] , children should be encouraged to take care of pets as it could promote prosocial and humane behavior and teach them about forming emotional connections. The latter can result in a range of positive outcomes for both children and adults, such as reduced aggression and increased quality of life. Taking care of a pet also teaches kids empathy and taking on responsibility and as a result, children who grow up with pets may have a better chance of becoming happy and healthy teens.

3. Increases our sense of self-esteem and well-being

The before-mentioned research showed that pet owners had improved well-being in various areas, including increased self-esteem and being more extroverted. Regular walks your pet not only helps establish social contact but also makes pet owners physically fitter than non-owners.

4. Helps with loneliness

As mentioned before, pets seem to act as somewhat of ‘’social facilitators“, whether is meeting new people or connecting to people through a shared interest in pets.

According to the Australian People and Pet survey [3] (1994), 58% of pet owners said they got to know people and made friends through having pets and 62% of owners said that having a pet around when people visited them made it easier to get into a conversation and create a friendly atmosphere. Furthermore, the People and Pet survey provides strong evidence that having a pet improves people’s social network, reduce loneliness and are especially beneficial to non-partnered people that have less social support. Pets might substitute for deficiencies in the human network and provide much needed emotional comfort.

To summarize, the research on pets and owner’s mental health clearly state the benefits of owning a pet are substantial so, if you were wondering if you should get a pet or not this should definitely help you out and if you already have one, appreciate your furry friend even more!

[1] Friedmann, E., Thomas S.A & Son H. (2011 ) Pets, depression and long term survival in community living patients following myocardial infarction. Anthrozoos; 24(3), 273-285.

[2] Hawkins, R. D., Williams, J. M. and Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2017). Childhood Attachment to Pets: Associations between Pet Attachment, Attitudes to Animals, Compassion, and Humane Behaviour. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health;14(5), 490.

[3] Wilson, C. C. & Turner, D.C. (1997). Companion Animals in Human Health.SAGE Publications.