Companion Animals Improve Quality of Life In Numerous Ways
Anyone who lives with a companion animal knows that there are many benefits to living with a dog or cat (or bird or fish or horse or pocket pet). Some of the benefits are tangible and some are more intuitive. There have been many studies on the psychological or health benefits of living with companion animals, but the majority of those studies are “correlational” and “involve populations facing considerable life challenges,” whether it be people with various health problems, people with depression, and so on. In other words, it’s generally been shown that companion animals provide important emotional and social support for people who have problems.
Polls show that 50% of people consider their animal companions “as much a part of the family as any other person in the household,” and that “35% have included their pet in a family portrait,” and that “25% of pet owners who are married or cohabitating report that their pet is ‘a better listener than their spouse.'” Could this indicate that our animal companions are good for us, psychologically and physically?
In this project, researchers conducted three studies looking at how “everyday people” enjoy benefits to their well-being by living with companion animals. In the first study, they found that living with cats and dogs could improve self-esteem and conscientiousness, and also reduce anxiety and fear. Though not every measure in the first study showed differences, the ones that did showed that those with companion animals fared far better. Study two found that the people benefited from living with companions regardless of their other human interactions; in other words, the benefits of companion life were independent of other factors, though they “complement other forms of social support.”
In the third study, which was a more controlled experiment, the “pet owners were induced to experience feelings of social loneliness and isolation to observe how thinking about one’s pet might alleviate the negativity that results from social rejection.” Researchers found that thinking about one’s companion animal was as effective as thinking of one’s best human friend in staving off feelings of social rejection.
For animal advocates, this study shows that many people benefit from their relationship with companion animals. The research is another great example for advocates to show that living with a companion animal can be a wonderful and nurturing experience and that adopting companion animals can benefit the companions as well as their humans.