Updated: Mar 3
It’s 2020 and mental health is finally getting more attention and importance with the help of new studies and technologies. But even years before, there have already been studies on factors that go hand in hand with mental health and one of those are studies include the positive impacts of having pets.
Indeed, for some, pets are just animals who are merely companions or additional members in a family. They’re also enjoyed by anyone no matter what age. You can be a child, an adolescent, an adult, or a senior but a pet and find the presence of a pet a great joy.
But pets can be more than just that, especially for those who suffer from mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, one of the earliest studies on pets and mental health go way back 30 years ago. It was a study by Alan Beck, a psychologist from Purdue University, and Aaron Katcher, a psychiatrist from the University of Pennsylvania. In their study, it was found that their subjects experienced their blood pressure going down, their heart rate slowing, regular breathing, and relaxed muscles after petting a friendly dog.
In a similar study conducted in 2011 by Allen McConnell and Christina Brown, it was also found that pet owners had “greater self esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners” (McConnell and Brown, 2001).
Here are also more psychological benefits of owning a pet:
#1 Lowers the Stress Hormones
Many studies and observations have been found raise serotonin and dopamine levels, which are hormones responsible in helping us feel calm and more relaxed. Interaction with them also reduces cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone. This makes pets a perfect companion for those who suffer from anxiety. You can also find joy from the simple act of buying pet products online like toys and food.
#2 Protection from Childhood Anxiety
A study conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that a little over half of 643 children had a dog. 21 percent of children who did not have dogs tested positive for an anxiety screening test, while only 12 percent of children who had dogs tested positive.
#3 Pets Give Us A Purpose
With a pet, people can feel more wanted and needed and give them a sense of purpose and meaning as they take care of their pet. Furthermore, this also relates to the feeling of doing good for others, which can reduce loneliness and depression.
#4 They Add A Structure to Your Daily Life
Sometimes, people lose a sense of control or order when they’re too stressed or have too much going on in their lives. But with a pet, you’ll need to regularly feed them or schedule exercise and playtime. This routine, though small, can help you to find a sense of balance and calmness even amidst your busy schedule.
A Small Reminder: Major Commitment
Indeed, having a pet sounds like a grand idea if you are experiencing lots of stress, are lonely, or feel depressed. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that having a pet isn’t the cure-all for mental health. While they can help, it’s also necessary to seek professional advice so you don’t end up adding more problems to your life with a pet. Remember, a pet costs money, time, attention, and they can be destructive at times. For short, they are also a big responsibility and you have to be ready to take care of one.