Can Pets Help to Improve Mental Health?

Can Pets Help to Improve Mental Health?

How many people do you have in your life that show you complete unconditional love? If you are struggling to come up multiple people, you are not alone.

When I think of pure, unconditional love, the first thing that comes to mind is my dog.

She loves me when I am able to give her my undivided attention and tons of affection, which happens more often than not. However, she also loves me when I am stressed and unable to give her the attention that she truly deserves. Either way, she is there to wag her tail and become ridiculously excited every time that I walk through the door. She immediately improves my mood.

This is why I was not surprised to learn that pets can be a very important source of social and emotional support. Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called everyday people. The results of the current study were reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions,” said researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

Pets have been shown to improve symptoms of mental health diagnoses ranging from depression to PTSD. Pets can also benefit your mental health in many other ways including:

  • Unconditional & Uncomplicated love
  • Social Interaction
  • Companionship
  • Sense of Responsibility
  • Physical Activity

So, whether or not you are an animal lover, it might greatly benefit you to invest in a pet. I can certainly attest to the power of the simple, yet absolute love of an animal.

Amanda Dempsey, LAMFT
adempsey @ growcounseling.com

Photo Cred: Nacho

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