Dogs help fight depression and loneliness

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The bond between a pet and its owner is special and goes beyond company. In many cases he becomes a family member, loved and pampered and able to reciprocate with the same affection. We already talked about the benefits for our children of growing up with an animal, but a new interesting research shows the importance that pets have in making us feel good, removing stress and depression.

The study published in BMC Public Health examined examined changes in human mental well-being following dog acquisition, including four measures: loneliness, positive and negative affect, and psychological distress. The results show that dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.

The research analyzed the effects of a dog’s company on mental health starting from an assumption: pets have evolved and become deeply attuned to our behavior and our emotions. Dogs in particular are able to understand many of the words we use, but they are even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language and gestures, assessing our emotional state and also understanding what we are thinking, giving us comfort and support.

For the new study, the researchers divided the participants into three groups:

  • people without a dog and without interest in taking one;
  • people who did not have a dog but were very interested in taking one in the future;
  • people who have had a dog within one month of starting the study.

The participants completed a questionnaire to measure their mood, evaluating not only their general happiness, but also the symptoms of psychological distress such as loneliness or stress. The results showed that those who had just owned a dog felt significantly less alone: ​​the effect occurred within 3 months and there was no reduction in the 8 months that the study lasted.

The beneficial effects derive not only from owning a dog but also other pets such as cats or rabbits. Many studies have shown that pampering given to our pets raises the mood, just as their presence rejuvenates and helps reduce the risk of heart disease, but it is also a source of happiness and mental stability.

Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, alleviate loneliness, encourage physical exercise and playfulness. Caring for an animal can also help children grow safer and more active and their company is a valuable resource for elderly  people.