The positive effects that pets have on people have been well-researched.
There’s something inherent in a doggo’s wagging tail or cat’s gentle headbutt that can reassure us that whatever is happening that day, we are still appreciated, and even loved, unconditionally at home.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recently quoted research conducted by the University of Manchester that suggests that pets can help people who are living with a mental illness to manage their condition.
President of the AVA, Dr Paula Parker said that the human-animal bond plays a crucial and positive role in the health and wellbeing of the community.
“Benefits can include companionship, health and social improvements and assistance for people with special needs.
“This research takes our knowledge about the human-animal bond a step further suggesting that pets can help people who are struggling with a serious mental illness to manage their mental health.
“Only through more research like this, can we come to better understand just how increasingly valuable animals are to an individual’s wellbeing and the community,” she said.
The study involved 54 participants with a severe mental illness, for example, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Twenty-five of the participants identified a pet as being important in the everyday management of their illness. Of these people, more than half identified their pet as being one of the most important things to them in managing their mental health.
“There’s already strong evidence to indicate that owning a pet brings health benefits including physical health benefits, for example, dog owners increase their exercise by walking their pet.
“Research also suggests that pets have positive effects on the community,” Dr Parker said.
A study conducted by the University of Western Australia found that pets facilitate first meetings and conversations between neighbours, with more than 60 per cent of dog owners reporting that they got to know their neighbours through their pets.
“While pets can improve our health and wellbeing, it’s important to remember that the human-animal bond is a two-way street and we need to provide the same benefits to our pets by ensuring we properly care for their health and welfare,” Dr Parker said.
Depression support service Beyondblue also recognise that pets have many positive affects on your wellbeing.
On their website, some of the reasons they list include:
- Pets love you without judgement and they’re happy to be in your company.
- When you’re not up to interacting with people, pets are there for you. They’re great to talk to (perhaps because they can’t talk back) and they pick up when you’re not feeling 100 per cent. They often have a calming influence.
- Pets can encourage you to be more active and spend more time outdoors (and also give you an easy way to start conversation with others)
- Taking care of a pet can remind you to take better care of yourself
- Pets encourage you to wake, eat, play, exercise and sleep at regular times. Routines give your days purpose and structure which are supportive factors to manage conditions depression and anxiety.