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Pets Helping Mental Health
The humble hound and friendly feline have proven during the pandemic how important they are to our everyday lives. Pet Insurance Australia takes a look at the research behind how our pets can help improve our mental health and overall wellbeing.
“For experienced pet owners, and new fur parents, it comes as no surprise how good they are for our mental health,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. “Not only do they make a great distraction from all the doom and gloom, but they also provide us with a good excuse to unplug and click off.”
With the current global climate and the effects being felt concerning Covid-19 the benefits of having a companion animal around the home have certainly increased.
“For many years it’s been clear that having a pet around can help with depression, anxiety while also allowing for social interaction with others,” Crighton says. “Even during a lockdown situation, pet owners seek advice and conversation from social media pet-specific groups and take pride in sharing their stories of their four-legged companions.”
Pets are particularly important in helping combat loneliness, they make wonderful companions to those who live alone and the elderly that could be struggling with finding safe interactions.
“There are some wonderful research papers that indicate how much pets help owners who are feeling stressed or suffering from mental health struggles,” Crighton says. “Pet owners can manage their feelings better as their pets provide powerful connections and distractions from stress and possible triggers.”
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is a non-profit organisation that funds research into the health benefits of pets and human-animal interaction. Their research indicates that anyone suffering from mental health concerns, benefit greatly when they have access to the correct services, care, and support. This includes interaction with companion animals.
A paper from biomedcentral.com looked at a total of 17 studies in their review with evidence relating to the benefits of pet ownership. Their conclusion found that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions.
“It comes as no surprise with this type of reach why therapy dogs play such an important role in the lives of so many, including children,” Crighton says. “As the pandemic continues to rage around the globe the role many companion animals are currently playing should be celebrated and noted.”
A UK survey from The Mental Health Foundation alongside Cats Protection found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing. Because of the company of their feline companion, 76% said they could cope better with everyday life, while half of the cat owners felt that their cat’s presence and companionship was helpful.
“Even just stroking a pet can help alleviate stress and give a calming effect,” Crighton says. “As the global population struggles due to the huge stress of living with COVID-19 and its restrictions with travel, family gatherings, and many in lockdown, focusing on what can help is vital for health and wellbeing. Knowing our pets play such an important role in the mental wellness of our everyday and, ever-evolving lives brings comfort to many pet lovers.”
Benefits of pet ownership:
- Reducing stress
- Reducing blood pressure
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Increasing social skills
- Increasing self-esteem
- Increasing communication skills
- Increasing motor skills
- Encourages movement and stretching
- Decreasing boredom
- Decreases feelings of isolation and aloneness
“When you look at the proven benefits of pet ownership, and the current stresses we are all feeling due to Covid-19, our companion animals are proving daily the importance of the bond they share with their owners and the greater community.”
Photo by Valerie Elash