How Pets Can Help Improve Our Mental Health
We have known for a while that owning a pet can have numerous health benefits, but what about mental and psychological benefits? Research conducted byt Friedmann and Thomas in 1995 showed that pet owners are less likely to die within 1 year of having a heart attack than those who do not own pets.
There has also been a significant amount of research on the psychological benefits of owning a pet. However, most studies on this topic have looked at pet owners going through particularly difficult times or life challenges. However, this study aims to look at the benefits of owning a pet to everyday people.
A recent study has looked at pet owners in general rather than using people with existing issues. It found that pet owners were slightly more extroverted and less fearful, preoccupied and lonely than non pet owners. The study was conducted by Allen R. McConnell of Miami University and Christina M. Brown of Saint Louis University. Based on the results of their study they claim that ‘pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.’
The Study, titled ‘Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership’ found that people who owned pets did better on well-being tests, they did more exercise, had a greater self-esteem and had greater conscientiousness. Another interesting finding from the study was that people’s attachments to their pets didn’t appear to harm the other human relationships they had.
Having a pet gives you a routine. One of the things people with depression and anxiety struggle with is getting out the house and following a normal routine. They may not be able to venture to the local shops or a dentist appointment for example, but can often manage activities such as walking a dog.
Our pets depend on us and this gives us a sense of purpose, which is really important when you feel like the whole world is against you. If you own a dog then you need to provide them with a daily routine, such as feeding, walking and play time, even when you don’t feel like it. This forces you to interact with them and to get out and about.
Pets can be a welcomed distraction from the real world and provide us with comfort. When you are having a bad day, sometimes all you need is your pet to come over and give you some affection and you instantly feel better. It’s also known that stroking our pets releases endorphins that can help to improve our mood.
Pets are also entertaining and bring many happy moments into our lives. It’s no wonder so many people own pets in the UK. We are a nation of pet lovers and when we give our time and devotion to our pets they will always give something back.