In today’s busy, stressful world, the number of people suffering from mental health issues is increasing year on year. There are many different ways to combat mental health issues, but one of the most effective for many people is called the “pet effect”. The incredible human-animal bond between an owner and their pet can positively affect the well-being and mental health of both. Animals, specifically dogs, and cats, can greatly reduce stress levels, and help combat loneliness and depression in humans.
This article is a guide to the top 6 reasons why animals are beneficial for our mental health.
1. Positive Effects of Animals on Mental Illness
Pets are known to be helpful when it comes to assisting people with mental health issues. The experts at https://www.certapet.com/dsm-5/ explain that emotional support animals can have a huge benefit for people who suffer from many mental health issues. There are 297 recognized mental health conditions that are recognized in the DSM 5 manual and anyone who is diagnosed with one of these conditions can qualify for an emotional support animal.
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Manchester found that 60 percent of participants suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia agreed that their pets helped them battle mental illness on a daily basis. Medical professionals have concluded that pet ownership has many valuable mental health benefits as pets provide a unique form of validation and unconditional support to people which is unlike any other social relationship.
2. Animals Are Proven to Reduce Stress
Studies have found a clear link between animals and positive health effects on humans. For instance, spending time and interacting with pets greatly reduce hormones associated with stress. Building bonds with animals help humans produce serotonin and dopamine, which in turn helps relax the nervous system. Moreover, the pet effect is highly effective on humans because animals can reduce cortisol levels (also known as “the stress hormone”) whilst increasing oxytocin levels (also known as “the love hormone”). Thanks to the pet effect, many health institutions are incorporating animal-assisted therapy into their treatment programs.
3. Having A Loving Pet Can Fight Loneliness
Dogs, cats, and other pets have been humans’ greatest companions for decades. Pets not only provide us lots of affection but also give us a routine to share with them. Having a routine to keep up with is extremely important, especially for people who live alone and are in their later years of life. Companionship is very important for humans as it can both lower our risks of having illnesses and extend our life expectancy. Caring for another life and feeling loved simultaneously prevents feelings of isolation and loneliness.
4. Owning A Pet Helps People Socialize Better
Pet ownership can lessen the effects of social isolation by relieving social anxiety and providing pet owners with common pet-related topics to discuss. For instance, walking a dog can often lead to conversations between dog owners on topics that are relatable to them. Moreover, pet owners have higher chances of meeting new people with similar interests in pet training classes, pet stores, or special pet clubs. With more social connections, people have a lower risk of depression and anxiety and have higher self-esteem and positive emotions toward others.
5. Animals are Great for Children with ADHD
Children with ADHD who take care of a pet and follow a pet care routine are more functional and responsible. As pets need their playtime, playing together is an effective and health beneficial way for children with ADHD to use and release their excess energy. A child with high energy levels can burn a lot of energy running around with a dog or a cat and will then be calmer and more relaxed afterward. Moreover, spending time walking a dog outdoors can further benefit children as their blood flow can have higher levels of oxygen and circulation which increases their ability to learn and concentrate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs can protect children from anxiety. Researchers, who studied 643 children regarding their anxiety levels, physical activity, physical state, and lifestyles, found that children with a pet dog have significantly lower anxiety levels than children without one while all other factors remain similar.
There are various physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of owning a pet or an emotional support animal. Spending quality time and interacting with animals, not only reduces health risks like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but pets also help us combat mental illnesses such as depression and loneliness. There are so many ways in which our lives can be improved with loving and mutually beneficial human-animal companionships.