The Critical Role Pets Play in Improving Mental Health

Animals Come to the Rescue During Challenging Times

It’s not news that the last few years have been universally challenging. On top of the many stressors we already face day-to-day, the spread of COVID-19 has amplified feelings of anxiety and trauma. Fortunately for animal lovers, a recent study indicates that people with pets reported less depression and higher levels of physical activity during the pandemic, a fact that appears to be linked to their furry friends.

Specifically, scientists have found that dogs can fulfill this critical need in several ways. “Our results suggest that dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” study researchers stated.

According to News in Health, a monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, this outcome is based on science. “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure,” said the publication. As a result, animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and improve your mood.

The Physical Benefits of Human/Animal Interaction

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is a non-profit organization that funds research into the health benefits of pets and the interaction between humans and animals. HABRI focuses on promoting the benefits of the human-animal bond to raise awareness for people who may benefit directly from animal companionship or animal-assisted therapy.

According to the HABRI website, “recent research exploring the benefits of pets and human-animal interaction for mental health has uncovered new benefits for stress, depression, post-traumatic stress and for managing mental health.”

HABRI cites some enlightening peer-reviewed scientific evidence that supports this claim:

While service animals are obviously critical resources to those in need of aid and support, one could assert that all animals provide a similar benefit when providing love and care to their human counterpart. Apparently, the warm fuzzy feeling one gets from interacting with an animal companion is based on scientific facts.