Looking after your mental health is important, even more so during these uncertain times. From meditation to cooking, we’re all looking for new ways to give our brains a boost. Did you know that having a pet benefits your mental health? To celebrate World Mental Health Day on 10th October we’re going to take a look at some of the perks of having a pet.
Pets have long been known to provide companionship to people of all ages, but in recent years their effect on our mental health has been explored further. A recent study found that our pets have been doing a great job helping us cope during the Coronavirus pandemic. “Results showed that 91% of dog owners, 89% of cat owners and 86% who owned other pet species felt that their animals helped them cope emotionally with the COVID-19 situation.”
1 Provide Companionship
One of the most obvious benefits of pet ownership is the companionship it provides. Whether you live alone or with family, the company of a pet can feel extra special. Looking after a pet can also give the owner a sense of purpose and routine, which is especially important for those feeling lonely.
2 Increase Exercise
This might only be true of dog owners, but there are proven health benefits to getting outside for a walk or a run. Your dog (or perhaps you walk your ferret or tortoise?) gives you the perfect excuse to spend some time in the fresh air. Walking your pet may also result in more social interaction with other dog walkers.
3 Reduce Stress or Anxiety
We’re sure many of you can relate to the calming effect simply stroking a pet can have. In fact, a study of 249 people by Washington State University “found that there were huge reductions in the stress hormone cortisol from just 10 minutes of interaction” with cats and dogs. The perfect excuse to take ten minutes of cuddle time.
4 Help Children with Autism & ADHD
Animal-assisted therapy has been useful in many different fields, and it’s especially helpful for children with autism and ADHD. A study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute “that incorporated therapy dogs in a social skills intervention for children with high functioning autism found that children who interacted with a therapy dog showed decreased feelings of isolation and overall depressive symptoms, in addition to increased socialization.” Better Pet have written a helpful article about therapy pets, which you can read here.
5 Happier and Healthier
Health concerns can weigh on your mind and have a serious effect on your mental wellbeing. Owning a pet can actually provide physical benefits as well, here’s a list from HelpGuide detailing just some of the health benefits pet owners experience:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
- Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Dogs at Work
A bonus benefit is that having dogs in the workplace can have a big impact on staff. Research conducted by Battersea found that “More than 90 per cent of businesses we asked that allowed dogs at work said they’d seen a positive change in the working environment. One in two businesses noticed a decrease in absenteeism, 56 per cent said their dog had improved work relations, and 67 per cent said it improved staff morale.”
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits pets have on our mental health and general wellbeing. We’d love to hear your stories about how your pets have had a positive effect on your mental health.