Keeping a pet has helped maintain the mental health of owners during the stress and uncertainty of lockdown, a study by UK researchers has found.
The research, by a team from the universities of York and Lincoln, is published in the US journal PLOS One and shows that these benefits appear to occur with all pets, not just dogs and cats.
In his article in Vet Times (VT50.41) John Bonner commetned that the authors stated that: “Having a companion animal – but not the strength of the human-animal bond – was associated with less deterioration in mental health and smaller increases in loneliness since lockdown.
“This suggests that aspects of non-specific social support associated with ownership may make owners more resilient in the context of the lockdown.”
Despite the widely held view that pet-keeping can be good for both the physical and mental health of owners, the evidence is far from conclusive.
Indeed, some studies have suggested that “strong reported bonds or attachment to companion animals are associated with increased depression and loneliness, and can predict vulnerability or increased levels of emotional distress”, said the team led by veterinary behaviourist Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln School of Life Sciences.
Their study reported the results of a questionnaire survey of 6,000 UK citizens during the main lockdown period from 23 March to 1 June.
Among this group, 89% reported that they owned at least one companion animal and roughly half of the rest said that they would like to own a pet, but their current circumstances did not allow it.
The survey explored the strength of these owners’ bond with their animals and any changes that may have occurred since the pandemic began.
Results showed that 91% of dog owners, 89% of cat owners and 86% who owned other pet species felt that their animals helped them cope emotionally with the COVID-19 situation.
- For the full story, see the 6 October issue of Vet Times (VT50.41).