Benefits of pets for our mental health

by | Interesting |

In light of this month’s focus on mental health (and Bell Let’s Talk Day), we wanted to share some resources about the benefits of pets on a variety of mental health disorders including depression, autism, anxiety, and more.

Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health as a legitimate way to treat depression, and other mood disorders. Here are a few ways pets relieve depression.

Ways pets relieve depression

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Never alone: When a person is feeling lonely, many doctors will recommend getting a pet as a cure. Pets give us the feeling we are not alone, and have someone offering unconditional love to us.

Get us going: The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative says dogs are particularly great pets for depression because they force a person to get out and about for walks with the dog. The initiative says, “Thus they are also conversation initiators, helping to alleviate social isolation. Further, pets require daily responsibility to meet their basic needs such as food and water and they bring structure to a person’s daily activities.”

Calming presence: Even a pet’s presence can do wonders for calming you down, studies show pet owners have significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate both before and while performing stressful mental tasks.

Pets can also give us a new perspective, and provide a source of physical touch comfort. Read about these benefits on the full blog.

Improved social behaviour for children with Autism

HABRI, autism
photo credit: One Kid and his Dog via photopin (license)

The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) has found that the human-animal bond can be influential in improving the quality of life for children with autism spectrum disorders. Here’ some information from their post on Autism and the Human-Animal Bond:

HABRI cites a study, published by the University of Queensland in Australia. It showed that animals help children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD):

  • “interact better along with demonstrating increased positive social behaviors
  • display more social behaviors such as talking, making physical contact and looking at faces
  • become more receptive to social advances from their peers
  • laugh and smile more and also reduce behaviors such as frowning, whining and crying”

Source: University of Queensland in Australia by Marguerite E O’Haire.

Read about the researched benefits of interaction and companionship on the full blog.

Doctors report paws-itive results 

A survey of doctors was conducted in 2014 to investigate this. The survey was conducted by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), in partnership with Cohen Research Group. The study explored doctors’ knowledge and attitudes towards the human health benefits of pets. A staggering 97 per cent of doctors surveyed reported they believed there were health benefits from owning a pet.

The study found most doctors (69 per cent) had successfully worked with animals in a hospital, medical centre or medical practice to assist patient therapy or treatment. Perhaps not surprising to pet owners, the study found 97 per cent of physicians surveyed saw an improvement in their patients’ mental health. Another 98 per cent reported improved mood or outlook. Pets also helped patients’ physical conditions, with 88 per cent of doctors reporting improvements.

Read more about the Pet Effect here on the full blog.

We hope you found this article useful!