84 Percent of Pet Owners Say Their Pets Positively Impact Their Mental Health

Do you feel a lot better after a snuggle with your dog, cat, or other furry friend? You are far from alone.

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) most recent Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, which tracks mental health issues in Americans throughout the year, has found that 84% of pet owners say their animals have a mostly positive impact on their mental health. This was especially true among those who had dogs, cats, or emotional support animals. The “furry friend” moniker is apt, too, with 65% of respondents saying their pets offer companionship and are a true friend.

Man holds and pets tiny kitten

Rena Carlson, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association, with whom the APA released the findings, says, “As veterinarians, we witness firsthand the powerful bond between people and their animals, and the positive impact pets can have on their emotional well-being. From offering companionship and unconditional love to reducing stress and anxiety, pets can be invaluable sources of comfort and support. These survey results further reinforce the importance of responsible pet ownership and the critical role pets play in our lives.”

The poll, which was conducted between February 6 and 9 with a representative sample of 2,200 adults, also found that pets keep their owners’ minds at ease, with 62% saying that they provide a calming presence and help reduce stress and anxiety. Their presence may also open the door to new friendships, with one in five respondents reporting increased social connections with others thanks to their pets.

Woman cuddles with her Italian greyhound

Unfortunately, our affection for our furry friends does lead us to worry about their wellbeing. Just over three-quarters of respondents said they worried about their pets getting older or passing away, while about two-thirds worried about their pets’ health conditions or their care when they’re on vacation.

Despite this, though, this provides more evidence of how beneficial pets can be to our mental health.

APA President Dr. Petros Levounis says, “It’s easy to overlook the role of pets when we’re talking about mental health. But for people who do enjoy the company of animals, they can be a source of companionship, comfort, love, and friendship. I routinely encourage adoption of a pet to my patients who struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or technology. We’re also starting to see more and more research around the role that animals can play in recovery from depression and other psychiatric disorders.”

Man looks at his French bulldog

So, even if our pets sometimes give us a headache with their shenanigans, all the comfort we get from them balances it out.

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