Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Pets Have Overwhelming Positive Impact on Mental Health, APA Poll Finds

A strong majority of Americans who have pets regard their pets as part of the family, and most feel that their pets have a positive impact on their mental health, according to the latest findings from APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly Poll.

“People recognize that there is something special about bonds between humans and their pets,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, M.D., J.D., in a news release. “The animals we bring into our lives and our families play many roles from non-judgmental companions that we love to key partners in reducing our stress and anxiety. Americans clearly recognize that our relationships with our pets can have noticeable benefits for our overall mental health.”

The Healthy Minds Monthly Poll was fielded by Morning Consult from February 10 to 12, with a sample of 2,200 adults. The margin of error was plus or minus two percentage points.

Among the survey respondents, 50% said they had dogs, 35% said they had cats, and 31% said they did not have any pets. Roughly 3% said they had other pets such as birds, fish, turtles, or others.

Among pet owners, 88% said they consider their pets to be part of the family. Furthermore, 86% said their pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health, including 87% of dog owners, 86% of cat owners, and 62% of other pet owners.

Those who said their pets positively affect their mental health said their pets do so in the following ways:

  • Help reduce stress and anxiety (69%).
  • Provide unconditional love and support (69%).
  • Offer companionship (69%).
  • Provide a calming presence (66%).
  • Are true friends (63%).

Cat owners were more likely than dog owners to say their pets offer companionship, provide a calming presence, and help reduce stress and anxiety. Dog owners were twice as likely as cat owners to say their pet encourages them to be physically active.

When asked how much they worried about various stressors related to pets, 71% said they worried about their pets aging or passing away, 66% worried about their pet’s health conditions, 58% worried about health care expenses for their pet, and 56% worried about making travel-related arrangements for their pet.

Among respondents who did not own pets, 29% said they could not afford a pet, 22% said they did not have time to take care of a pet, and 11% said they were mourning a deceased pet.

“The benefits of pet ownership to many Americans seem to outweigh the stressors,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “If pets are not an option for your family, but you are seeking that connection, there are many opportunities to volunteer with animals that may also benefit your life.”

APA invites you to share the word and pictures of your pets this month on social media with the hashtag #Paws4MentalHealth. Learn more.

(Image: iStock/GlobalP)


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