Pet Ownership and Mental Health
Studies reveal mood-boosting benefits.
Pets may be lovable, but they serve a bigger purpose beyond companionship. Numerous studies have found that pets can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. It’s probably why close to one in five households has acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.1
Much research has shown that pets benefit both physical and mental health. As society faces unprecedented mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, a growing area of research is focused on pets and mental health.
Science has long established that pets help people reduce stress and maintain healthy routines. Pets can also help alleviate depression and physical pain – and provide a sense of purpose. New research suggests that pet ownership is even better for mental and brain health than we may have thought. A February 2022 study found that pet ownership contributed to slower mental decline in older adults.3
According to the American Heart Association and other sources, pet ownership can improve mental health in myriad ways:
- Reduce work-related stress. 40% of employees cite their job as a source of stress. Studies show that pets in the workplace help reduce stress and improve employee satisfaction.4
- Help manage anxiety. Studies show that interacting with pets reduces levels of cortisol (the stress-related hormone), raises levels of serotonin and dopamine (the “happiness hormones”), and increases the release of oxytocin (another chemical that naturally reduces stress).
- Improve child and teen mental health. A CDC study found that pets have a beneficial effect on childhood stress and anxiety. In the study, the percentage of children without pets who displayed anxiety was nearly double that of children who owned a pet.5 Children who grow up with pets may have a better chance of becoming happy and healthy teens.
- Practice mindfulness. Pets encourage their owners to live in the moment. As a result, pets can help us become more mindful, bringing attention to the present moment without worry about the past or the future.
- Build relationship skills. Research shows that those who are emotionally attached to their dogs have an easier time building relationships with other people. Pets also provide a sense of togetherness, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Finally, pets provide unconditional love, support, and validation that can’t be found in family or social relationships, helping to alleviate anxiety and other mental health issues.
Pet insurance can provide peace of mind that if something unexpected should happen to your four-legged friends, you can keep them protected. A comprehensive Pet insurance plan can reduce the stress associated with unexpected illnesses and associated veterinary bills. Learn more.
1 “New ASPCA Survey Shows Overwhelming Majority of Dogs and Cats Acquired During the Pandemic Are Still in Their Homes,” August 2021. https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/new-aspca-survey-shows-overwhelming-majority-dogs-and-cats-acquired-during
2“Puppy Love: Study Finds Dogs Helped Owners Cope with Pandemic’s Psychological Toll,” December 2021. https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/puppy-love-study-finds-dogs-helped-owners-cope-with-pandemics-psychological-toll/#:~:text=In%20a%20study%20published%20in,role%20in%20people’s%20emotional%20lives.
3“Do pets have a positive effect on your brain health?” American Academy of Neurology, February 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220223210035.htm
4“5 Ways Pets Help with Stress and Mental Health,” American Heart Association, May 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-bond-for-life-pets/pets-and-mental-health#:~:text=Studies%20show%20that%20dogs%20reduce,likely%20to%20develop%20heart%20disease.
5“10 Ways Pets Support Mental Health,” June 2018. https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/pets-and-mental-health/#:~:text=Studies%20around%20pets%20and%20mental,levels%20of%20serotonin%20and%20dopamine.
More than 85% of dog owners and 75% of cat owners believed their pets had a positive effect on their well-being during the pandemic.2