Friday, March 1, 2024

Pet Ownership Has a Positive Impact on Mental Health, APA Poll Finds

A large majority of U.S. adults who have pets feel that their pets have a positive impact on their mental health, according to the latest findings from APA’s Healthy Minds Poll released today.

“It’s easy to overlook the role of pets when we’re talking about mental health,” said APA President Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., in a news release. “But for people who do enjoy the company of animals, they can be a source of companionship, comfort, love, and friendship. I routinely encourage adoption of a pet to my patients who struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or technology. We’re also starting to see more and more research around the role that animals can play in recovery from depression and other psychiatric disorders.”

The poll was conducted online by Morning Consult from February 6 to 9 with a sample of 2,200 adults. The results were released jointly with the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Among all survey respondents, 72% reported having pets at home—52% had dogs; 37% had cats; 7% had fish; 4% had birds; and less than 3% had turtles, chickens, horses, snakes, lizards, rabbits, guinea pigs, or hamsters. Eighteen percent of pet owners said one or more of their pets were certified as an emotional support animal.

Among pet owners, 84% said their pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health, compared with only 1% of pet owners who reported a mostly negative impact. Those who said their pets positively affect their mental health offered the following reasons:

  • 65% said pets offer companionship
  • 64% said pets provide unconditional love and support
  • 62% said pets provide a calming presence
  • 62% said pets help reduce stress and anxiety
  • 35% said pets encourage them to be physically active
  • 29% said pets add structure to their schedule
  • 19% said pets increase social connections with others.

When asked how much they worried about various stressors related to pets, 76% of respondents said they worried about their pets aging or passing away, 67% worried about their pet’s health conditions, and 67% worried about their pet’s care when traveling.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News special report “How Companion Animals Can Participate in Treatment of Mental Illness.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/GlobalP)

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