When you think of ways to reduce stress in life, techniques such asMeditation,Yoga, zdiarycome to mind. These are definitely great techniques. But getting a new best friend can also have many health benefits and stress relief. While human friends are greatsocial careand bring some fabulous benefits, this article will focus on the benefits of having furry friends.
On onerecent poll by Verywell Mindwe found that 47% of Americans currently in therapy say they also spend time with pets to support their mental health. Among the most popular mental self-care activities pointed out by respondents was just reading.
We spoke to Jenna Stregowski, Registered Vet Tech (RVT) and Pet Health and Behavior Editordaily pawsfor some tips on how the human-pet relationship can be mutually beneficial and boost the mental health of our furry friends, as well as ourselves.
How pets relieve stress
Research shows that pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief, and other health benefits, unless you really dislike animals or are too busy to properly care for them—perhaps more so than humans.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these effects became even more significant as people became increasingly isolated from one another. "I think those of us with pets were the lucky ones," says Stregowski.
She adds that humans and animals alike have benefited as the world has changed and many are spending much more time at home. "People have had more time to exercise, play, and exercise, which helps strengthen human-animal bonds," she says. The extra time together was good for us—and good for our pets.
Below are other health benefits for pets.
It's virtually impossible for any animal lover to get in a bad mood when some loving canine looks meet yours or when a super soft cat rubs your hand. In addition to the social support, stress relief, and overall health benefits that pets can bring, research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A 2017 study found that people with AIDS were less likely to experience depression when they had a pet.
Reduce blood pressure
Yes, it is true. Although ACE inhibitor drugs can usually lower blood pressure, they are not as effective at controlling blood pressure spikes due to stress and tension.
Research since the mid-1980s has found that there are positive physiological effects of dog petting and social interaction with pets, specifically lowering blood pressure. Touch, the actual stroking of the dog, seemed to be the main component of the so-called pet effect.
Whether we walk our dogs because they have to or we tend to enjoy walking our dogs for company, dog owners spend more time walking than non-pet owners, at least when we live in an urban environment.
Most people with dogs will probably say that they enjoy walks more because of the company of their pets and maybe even the feeling of being part of a community of other animal lovers. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.
And as Stregowski notes, regular exercise is great for your pets, too.
provide social support
When we go for a walk, a dog can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, increasing the number of people we meet and giving us the opportunity to expand our network of friends and acquaintances. which also has great benefits in stress management.
Offer companionship and unconditional love
Pets can be there for you in ways that humans cannot. They can offer love and companionship, and they can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets, and make excellent cuddly toys. And they can be the best antidote to loneliness.
"I believe pets help meet our human need for companionship, love, and physical touch," says Stregowski. "Animals are not burdened with the complexities of human life and offer us a break from our everyday concerns like work and finances."
In fact, one study found that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by lonely dogs than when they spent time with dogs and other people.All of these benefits can reduce the stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support.
Press play for advice on how to deal with loneliness
This episode of is hosted by Editor-in-Chief and Therapist Amy Morin, LCSWPodcast The Verywell Mind, starring singer/songwriter Grace Gaustad, tells how to deal with feelings of loneliness. Click below to listen now.
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Pets vs Humans
While we all know the power of talking about your troubles with a good friend who is also agood listener, Research shows that spending time with a pet can be even better.
One study showed that when performing a stressful task, people actually felt less stress when their pets were with them than when a friend or even their spouse was present. This may be partly because pets don't judge us; they just love us.
Can we benefit from any pet?
While dogs and cats are obviously the most popular pets, Stregowski says he's seen all kinds of pets that enrich the lives of his people, including reptiles and even mice.
"Even looking at fish in an aquarium can be a kind of meditation," she says.
Jenna Stregowski, RVT
In general, I believe that bonding with animals can give people a connection to nature and an overall sense of peace.
— Jenna Stregowski, RVT
Even if your pet friends aren't exactly as furry or Instagram-friendly as cats and dogs, you can still reap the benefits of caring for an animal.
Your pet can benefit too.
With the advent of post-pandemic remote or flexible working, many people will continue to have extra time with their pets that they didn't have before. This should allow for continued involvement that can keep a pet happy and healthy.
But for essential workers or those who are back in the office more regularly, Stregowski says, it's important to establish and stick to a routine during a difficult time for your pet. "Include daily exercise, play, and cuddle time if your pet likes that," she says. “Schedule a few short exercise sessions a week to keep your pet fit. You can also leave interactive toys or treat dispensers for your pets.”
Stregowski says mental health is just as important to our pets as it is to us. "Our pets may not have the same complex thoughts and emotions, but they can easily experience anxiety and depression." Since most animals are not traditionally suited to a sedentary lifestyle, it's up to us to make sure they don't become bored or frustrated.
Her solution: “Make games your pet enjoys to provide them with mental and physical activity. You will enjoy it too.”
Jenna Stregowski, RVT
Our pets may not have the same complex thoughts and emotions, but they can easily experience anxiety and depression.
— Jenna Stregowski, RVT
A word from Verywell
It is important to realize that having a pet is not for everyone. Pets bring extra work and responsibilities, which can bring their own stress. However, for most people, the advantages of having a pet far outweigh the disadvantages. Having a furry best friend can reduce the stress in your life and provide you with support during difficult times.
What to do if your dog ate an antidepressant
How much do pets reduce stress? ›
In fact, an astonishing 84 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40 percent were able to decrease their medications, reported a recent survey.
Evidence suggests that attachment to pets is good for human health and even helps build a better community. It's no secret that pets can contribute to your happiness. Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise and improve your overall health.Does pet Ownership reduce stress? ›
Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Caring for an animal can help children grow up more secure and active. Pets also provide valuable companionship for older adults.How does having a pet affect your mood? ›
Stroking, hugging, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we're stressed or anxious. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and most dogs are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost your mood and ease depression.What are the benefits of owning a pet? ›
There are many health benefits of owning a pet. They can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.What is the best pet for stress relief? ›
Lizards, fish, hamsters, and turtles make amazing low-maintenance pets for anyone who requires a little relaxation and stress relief in their busy college lives. They're all small, relatively quiet, easy-to-care-for pets who can bring at least a little sense of calm in the hustle and bustle of daily life.How pets can improve your mental health? ›
- increasing your physical activity. Dog owners are likely to take their pets for a walk or run every day. ...
- providing companionship. ...
- reducing anxiety. ...
- boosting self-confidence. ...
- helping you meet new people. ...
- adding structure to your day.
- Con: More Living Expenses. As a dependent, a pet will add to your living expenses. ...
- Pro: Unconditional Love and Companionship. ...
- Con: Care When You're Away. ...
- Pro: Home Safety. ...
- Con: Time Consumption. ...
- Pro: Built-In Icebreaker. ...
- Con: Health Care Costs. ...
- Pro: Someone to Nurture.
Pets have a relaxing effect. Petting or stroking an animal can improve your mood. "Touch helps increase oxytocin levels and reduces cortisol, the infamous stress-related hormone," Wiercyski says. Even the sound of a cat purring can be soothing.Is getting a pet help social anxiety? ›
If you experience social anxiety disorder, an emotional support dog (ESD) may be of significant benefit to your stress levels, motivation, and experiences of love and care. ESDs can offer non-judgmental support as you challenge yourself to take responsibility for their care, and well-being.
Do pets make us less lonely? ›
85% of respondents agree interaction that pets can help reduce loneliness. 76% agree human-pet interactions can help address social isolation.Does having a pet change you? ›
Spending time with your pet can be relaxing, encouraging the release of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help us de-stress and feel good. And petting a beloved animal can even help lower your blood pressure.Do pets affect personality? ›
British Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire conducted an online survey of pet owners and found that both dog and cat owners shared such personality traits as happiness, intelligence, independence, and sense of humor with their pets. Dr.How pets affect your health and happiness? ›
helps lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and decrease depression. Scientists have also observed that interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has a number of important effects on the body.What pet is good for depression? ›
The most common emotional support animals for depression are dogs and cats. Emotional support animals can be used in several different environments, including schools, airports, college campuses and at home.What is the calmest pet? ›
- Calm and Cuddly Dog Breed: French Bulldog. ...
- Popular Calm Hypoallergenic Dogs: Standard Poodle. ...
- Calm Small Dog Breed: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. ...
- Calm Medium-Sized Dog: Basset Hound. ...
- Calm Large Dog Breed: Irish Wolfhound. ...
- Gentle Giant Dog Breed: Saint Bernard. ...
- Big Calm Dog Breed for Your Family: Newfoundland.
Some types of dog breeds are better emotional support animals than others. Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Corgis, Poodles, Maltese, Havanese, Great Danes, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel all rank highly for their natural affection toward people, whether familiar faces or strangers.Can dogs sense anxiety? ›
Dogs can sense when humans are anxious
Dogs are also great observers - our facial expressions, posture, the way we move, the smells we give off, and our tone of voice, all give our dogs vast quantities of information about how we might be feeling.
Pets are a great source of comfort and relaxation. This very ability of theirs has earned them the name of 'great companions for life'. Experts have proven that their mere presence can help individuals to battle depression and anxiety. Spending time with them releases happy hormones that help them to feel better.Do pets have a positive effect on your brain health? ›
Taking into account other factors known to affect cognitive function, the study showed that long-term pet owners, on average, had a cognitive composite score that was 1.2 points higher at six years compared to non-pet owners.
Are pets helpful or harmful? ›
The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.What are 5 benefits of owning a dog? ›
“Higher survival rates, fewer heart attacks, less loneliness, better blood pressure, better psychological well-being, lower rates of depression and stress levels, fewer doctor visits, increased self esteem, better sleep and more physical activity,” are just some of the recorded benefits of pet ownership, Herzog said.Should I get a pet if I'm depressed? ›
In fact: Did you know that dogs can play an integral part in your emotional well-being? Dogs can contribute to your happiness. Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health.Why Are pets good for depression? ›
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company of a pet can help people who are living with depression. Animals tend to offer unlimited affection and companionship, lift spirits and lower stress. Companion animals can also counteract symptoms such as isolation, rumination and lethargy.Do pets or friends help reduce stress statistics? ›
70% of employed pet owners say they would be happier and more productive if they could have their pet at work with them, either on site or remote. The most popular ways pets help people de-stress is snuggling (68%), making their owners laugh (67%) and helping them feel less lonely (61%).Do pets help with mental health statistics? ›
According to HABRI's survey of pet owners, the majority of pet owners have personal experience with the health benefits of pets: 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. 75% of pet owners reported a friend's or family member's mental health has improved from pet ownership.Is a pet good for a child with anxiety? ›
Studies have shown that having pets leads to a number of mental health benefits, such as decreased anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem and creating a sense of purpose.What challenges do people face when they keep a pet? ›
- Pet's Urge to Runaway. If you have a dog, cat, or rabbit as your newbie pet, escapists tendencies are more frequent in them. ...
- Pet's Facing Separation Anxiety. ...
- Disrupting the Harmony at Home. ...
- Unexpected Medical Emergencies. ...
- Surface Scratches and Chewing.
Having a pet can help lower anxiety levels and has been shown to help people with social anxiety. But when something goes wrong, such as a dog having chronic illness, pet ownership can actually raise anxiety levels.Is having a dog bad for my mental health? ›
Dogs Can Make Depression and Anxiety Worse
Unfortunately, those that had more interactions with their dogs had worse depression and anxiety. Westgarth concluded that dogs are “not the solution for those suffering from depression and anxiety – in fact, it may make it worse in some contexts.”
Do pets prevent depression? ›
A pet can provide you with a sense of purpose, which helps improve mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If you have a pet, you are never alone and you are also responsible for looking after them.How does it feel to own a pet? ›
Having a pet can improve your mood.
According to studies, spending time with your pet can trigger an increased level of oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone." This is responsible for the feeling of closeness and increased bonding with your pet. It can also increase your overall mood.
Cats have been known to help with loneliness, anxiety, depression, and more, just like dogs. If you're looking for a pet that requires a little less attention, a cat might be your best bet.Does having a pet reduce depression? ›
Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than people without pets. People with limited human social supports often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, both of which can worsen depression. A pet helps to decrease these feelings by providing companionship to its owner.How pets affect mental health statistics? ›
Studies have shown that: Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.Why Are pets good for anxiety? ›
The companionship of a pet can help to ease your anxiety. boosting self-confidence. Pets can be great listeners, offer unconditional love and won't criticise you. This can help your self-confidence, especially if you feel isolated or misunderstood.What are the negative effects of pets on human health? ›
Ways in which pet ownership and interaction can have a direct negative impact on human health include the potential for the spread of zoonotic diseases and allergies, mammalian bites and the avoidance of medical care.What are the best pets for depression and anxiety? ›
Cats have been known to help with loneliness, anxiety, depression, and more, just like dogs. If you're looking for a pet that requires a little less attention, a cat might be your best bet. They still make for great companions, but they're also okay with being alone for a while.