Do you have a dog, cat, or any pet? There is a rise in the recognition of the therapeutic benefits that pets can provide to mental health. A group of researchers from the University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, and University of Southampton assessed the role of companion animals in the lives of people living with a mental health condition.
The number of people with mental health problems continue to increase. In fact, approximately 450 million people currently suffer from mental or neurological disorders, with these conditions being one of the leading causes of ill health and disability globally. Although treatments are available, about two-thirds of people diagnosed with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.
The research group conducted a systematic review of studies, which included a total of 17 research. They looked at the positive, negative, and neutral effects of owning a pet on people who live with a mental health condition.
In the review, they found that pets provide benefits to their owners through the intensity of relationship they have with their owners. The study review confirmed that pets provide emotional support to their owners, especially in times of crises. On the other hand, the negative features that go together with having a companion animal include the practical and emotional burdening of taking care of one, and the psychological effect when owners lose their pet.
The researchers concluded that their findings, which were published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, suggest that people with mental health conditions can benefit from having a pet because they provide emotional support and help them manage their condition.
The benefits of having a pet
Here are the many benefits of having a pet, according to various scientific studies.
- Pets help you get over social rejection – A study published in the journal Anthrozoös found that people who are inclined to treat animals or objects like people, such as talking to a pet, are more likely to have traits like empathy and unconventional thinking to protect them from rejection.
- Pets can be your companion and make you happy – According to a study in the journal Aging & Mental Health, older adults who owned pets were less likely to report that they were lonely, compared to those who did not own a pet. A pet could give social interaction when other people are not around, particular to those who live by themselves.
- Pets prevent stress – Pet owners, dog owners in particular, had an increased levels of oxytocin, the happy hormone, and had lower heart rates, according to a small Swedish study. Female participants of the study also had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, between 15 to 30 minutes after petting a dog.
- Pets are good for your heart – A research published in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that people who own a cat have lower chances of dying from heart disease. (Related: Why Dog Owners are Happier,Healthier and Have Better Hearts!)
- Pets improve cognitive function of older adults – According to a study published in the journal Anthrozoös, older homebound adults who owned cats or dogs had better mental skills, such as the skills needed for paying attention, remembering details, and using past experience to decide how to act, compared to those who did not own a pet.
- Pets motivate you to exercise – People who owed dogs exercise about 30 minutes more weekly than those who don’t have a dog, according to a Michigan State University study.
- Pets help relieve pain – Another study in Anthrozoös revealed that adults who spent five to 15 minutes with a dog after joint replacement surgery used less pain medication.
- Pets lower babies’ risk of allergies – A study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found that babies exposed to pets have lower risk of developing allergies in later life.
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