Dog Ownership and Mental Health
Dog ownership and mental health go hand-in-hand. While there are days when we wonder how beneficial our furry friends are beneficial to our mental health, there are more days when we feel the health benefits. This article brings to light the amazing mental health benefits dog ownership provides.
Dog Ownership During COVID Lockdown
Dog owners faired the COVID lockdowns across the world much better than those who don’t have that human animal bond. As reported in ScienceDaily, The University of York revealed dog owners had an increased appreciation for their animals during the lockdown. Many of the survey participants stated they couldn’t live without their animals and they were a “godsend” or “lifeline” during the pandemic.
Survey participants reported their animals were a reliable source of support, affection and companionship when social connections with humans were not allowed. Other mental health benefits included enhanced mood and reduced stress.
One respondent said her dog kept her anxiety levels down and talking to her dog helped break her focus on anything negative, such as thoughts of catching COVID-19.
Many survey takers reported that their dogs helped them stay active during lockdown. They likely wouldn’t have taken a walk if it wasn’t for their dog needing one.
The benefits of pet ownership have been studied for years. It’s no surprise pets, specifically dogs, are good for relieving mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. How? Playing with animals releases serotonin and dopamine leading to relaxation and calmness.
Physical Health Benefits of Dog Ownership
Cat and dog owners also benefit physically from their animals. The human animal interaction lowers blood pressure. One study found that people with borderline hypertension that adopted dogs from a shelter lowered their blood pressure within five months.
Was that because of the human animal interaction or the increased physical activity of taking a dog for a walk? Probably a little bit of both, but the results were the same – improved health.
The same goes for low triglyceride and cholesterol levels for dog and cat owners vs. non pet owners. Again, it’s likely the combination of increased physical activity and human animal bond. More than one study has found that heart attack patients who own pets survive longer than non owners.
Seniors with pets seem to visit the doctor 30% less than non pet owners.
The positive impact of animals is why therapy dogs have increased in popularity over the last several years. People do not have to own pets to benefit from them. Many organizations use therapy dogs for animal assisted therapy to help their patients through mental and physical issues.
Dog Ownership and Loneliness
Dog ownership though… that’s where the real benefits come into play. Non owners that only have interactions with animals do not feel the same type of human animal bond. They may still experience loneliness at home where a dog could intervene during times of social isolation, such as in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to dogs filling in the gaps in social interaction, they can also help increase social interactions for owners. With visits to a dog park or many establishments that cater to dogs, pet owners can meet people who share in the love of dogs. This, in turn, helps people improve their mental health including their self esteem.
Social support is important to humans. While dogs can’t satisfy all aspects of human companionship, they can help people find the social support they need. This leads to higher levels of self esteem, lower blood pressure, and improved health.
No one can deny the positive impact companion animals have on humans. Read any study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and it’s plain to see why millions of people around the world have companion animals.
Social media is full of people who have a dogs and cats. It’s not difficult to find them posing with them, and most of them have a smile on their faces. This is just an example of how beneficial pets are to humans.
Taking Advantage of Dog Ownership and Mental Health
If you’re thinking of improving your mental health with dog ownership, great! You can adopt a dog from a shelter or breeder.
If you’re already a pet owner and wish that someone you know would consider dog ownership for mental health or physical health reasons, don’t jump into buying a dog as a gift. Bring it up to the person first, as sometimes, the stress of pet ownership can actually overshadow the benefits.
All things in moderation. Many people believe the more dogs they have, the more beneficial they are to their mental health. That is definitely not always the case. Check out How Many Dogs Is Too Many and Is 4 Dogs Too Many for more information.
Now, it’s your turn. What are the benefits you experience from dog ownership? Or … how is dog ownership not good for your mental health?