Pets and Mental Health

The relationship between humans and animals goes back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs became four-legged companions over 30,000 years ago; while livestock was not domesticated until about 12,000 years ago. Since the first wolf walked alongside humans, the roles of our animal companions changed over the last 30,000 years to become beloved pets.

Originally domesticated and bred as tools, today’s pets primarily fill the role of companion for over half of the global population. Cats and dogs have quite literally moved from working the night shift for humans to sleeping alongside them in bed. For many people, the attachment to our pets is an unbreakable bond. Why is it that humans can form such a close relationship with a different species? You may find yourself asking the question “what does having a pet do to benefit me?”

Corgi Prancing in the Rain on Railroad Tracks

Emotional Benefits of Having a Pet

If there is one thing pets are excellent at, it’s companionship. Coming home after a long day of work to a wagging tail is a massive stress reliever for most people. Service dogs assist veterans in alleviating symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Therapy dogs visit children’s hospitals and college campuses to help relieve stress for kids and students. And, for the everyday pet owner, being responsible for an animal is a powerful distraction from regular daily stressors.

But, the benefits don’t just lie with dogs, a recent study by Mental Health America showed owning a pet of any shape or size exhibits:

  • Lower levels of depression
  • Lower levels of self-isolation and increased participation in social engagements
  • Raised levels of life-satisfaction
  • Higher levels of mental resilience
  • Overall higher level of psychological well-being
  • And higher levels of companionship
Hampster looking at the Camera

Physical Benefits of Having a Pet

While the unwaverable happiness of a dog seeing you come home is enough to boost anyone’s morale, there are also benefits to our physical health that come with owning a pet. Service animals help people with disabilities function more independently in everyday life. Some service animals literal life-savers with skills like seizure alerting and sniffing out abnormal blood sugar levels. But the physical benefits of pets don’t end as service animals, dogs, and other large animals.

Even horses are magnificent at keeping their owners up and active. All pets are constantly in need of regular exercise forcing their humans to exercise as well. A study done by the American Heart Association concluded that for people living alone, owning a dog can lower the death risk of heart attack survivors by 33%, and lower the death risk of stroke survivors by 27%. With lower levels of stress and increased activity, pet owners are often have lower blood pressure, too!

Remember, while owning a pet comes with a lot of fun and benefits, animals are a lifetime commitment; They are not suited for everybody. It is imperative that when looking to adopt an animal, you research a pet that best matches your lifestyle.

Blue Parakeet

By: Timandra Rowan


American Heart Association

Mental Health America

BMC Psychiatry

Want More from ¡Viva Bien!?