There is an increasing amount of research being done that shows how people with mental health issues can benefit from having a pet. The studies being conducted are now being meta-analyzed and providing evidence to support this fact. Studies have been done interviewing individuals with varying backgrounds of conditions including PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
As the studies being conducted have shown, having a pet provided an unconditional support and love for owners. This helps to ease feelings such as loneliness, distress and worry.
“Pets provided acceptance without judgment, giving unconditional support, which [participants] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,”
– Dr. Helen Louise Brooks
It has been found that owners stated their pets required them to stay connected with the outside world. Through different factors pets require physical activity, such as dogs that require walks and being outside. This would encourage owners to have social interaction and created strengthened ties to the community.
Study has also shown that those who own pets helped them with keeping a solid sense of self-worth, identity and meaning. One participant in a study noted “When I was so depressed, I was kind of suicidal. […] The thing that made me stop was wondering what the rabbits would do. That was the first thing I thought of and I thought, oh yeah, I can’t leave because the rabbits need me.” Another response included “When he comes and sits up beside you on a night,” said another pet owner, “it’s different, you know, it’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him, sort of thing.”
With studies related to this subject continuing, the increase of knowledge in this area is quickly growing. Animals of many types can help calm a person when it comes to fear, stress and anxiety. As veterinarians we can see the benefits for owner’s of having a pet as part of their lives and we wanted to share those thoughts with you!