The Pet Effect: 5 Mood Boosting Mental Health Benefits of Owning Pets

Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows the immediate joy that comes from welcoming a new family member into your home. As you get to know one another, strong bonds and deep love blossom, and it’s suddenly impossible to imagine life without your precious fur baby. 

That connection you feel is real and authentic—and for those living with mental health issues, it can be a life-saving relationship.

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is a nonprofit dedicated to funding research exploring the benefits of the animal-human relationship. According to their research, 74% of pet owners report experiencing improved mental health due to pet ownership.

They’ve also come up with a list of 5 mental health benefits that come from owning pets. Let’s take a look.

Pets Reduce Stress

According to Johns Hopkins University, the mere act of petting a dog reduces stress hormones, and the act of playing with your pet releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.

Pets Fight Depression

Studies indicate that interactions with pets of all kinds can significantly alleviate symptoms of depression. With a dog as a companion, owners often engage in activities they may otherwise avoid such as getting outside for some exercise and interacting with people while going for walks. Caring for a pet also helps improve self-worth—after all, nurturing another life is a big deal and a lot of responsibility, and when people see they can do it successfully they begin to find value in their own existence.

Pet Owners are Less Lonely

This likely comes as no surprise to those of us with fur babies but, according to HABRI, 80% of pet owners say their pets make them feel less lonely and 54% say their pets help them connect with other people. It’s hard to feel lonely when you have an adoring companion looking up at you each day with eyes filled with unconditional love.

Pets Improve our Well Being

On average, people who own pets tend to be happier, have greater self-esteem, and get more exercise than those who do not. Studies have also found that pets help their owners stave off the negativity of social rejection.

Pets Provide Long-Term Mental Health Help

Owning a pet can provide long-term benefits to people dealing with ongoing mental health conditions. Service animals help alleviate symptoms of PTSD for veterans when incorporated with other mental health services. For those living with a diagnosed mental health condition, having a pet can help them manage emotions and provide a distraction from the stress of living with a diagnosis.

Research continues to support the idea that pets are an important and necessary piece of the human wellness puzzle. If you don’t currently share your space with a fur friend, what are you waiting for? Building a bond with a pet is good for your heart…and your mind.

Johns Hopkins University
Frontiers in Psychology
American Psychological Assoc