Dog owners feel more loved and valued than their peers. They’re also better able to cope with isolation and depression brought on by major incidents such as Covid lockdowns.
These are some of the main findings from a study of 1,500 people in Missouri in the United States.
The global pandemic left millions of people all over the world facing extended periods of lockdown and the mental health repercussions are immeasurable. Millions of people struggled with isolation and loneliness, with several days passing by without significant contact with other people.
The research suggests that those who spent lockdown with a canine companion were more likely to feel loved and less likely to feel lonely.
Dogs were first domesticated around 30,000 years ago and have long been known as ‘a man’s best friend’.
Research has shown that due to their instincts of hierarchy within a pack mentality, they make great pets and even family members.
Their intelligence and ability to protect, lead and show empathy has also seen them used for all manner of useful roles such as guide dogs, sniffer dogs, rescue dogs and therapy dogs.
This new study led by Dr Francois Martin, of Nestlé Purina Research in St Louis, Missouri added more evidence to the value of dogs in human society. (Linked In image of the doctor here https://www.linkedin.com/in/francois-martin-02310330)
It surveyed 1500 people, who were selected to make the study as accurate and unbiased as possible. With this in mind, half the volunteers were dog-owners, and the other half were “potential dog owners” – people who didn’t have a dog but were “extremely interested in owning one in the future”.
The idea was to try to compare like with like, with the only difference being that some of the dog lovers actually owned one while the others didn’t.
They were all asked a series of questions about their mental health and well-being. They were given scores for measuring their levels of anxiety, depression and happiness.
The study’s main findings
Perhaps used a different voice
“Dog owners reported having significantly more social support available to them compared to potential dog owners.
“Their depression scores were also lower. Taken together, our results suggest dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Dogs are non-judgmental
“Pets are perceived as always available, predictable in their responses, and non-judgmental.
Dogs offer unconditional love
“In addition, they are considered to be dependent and caring towards their owners with unconditional love. Pets’ reactions are not based on who the person is or their social competence, which provides a level of ease and sense of relief not usually experienced in other human-human social interactions.”
The researchers tried to account for results that might be coincidental, with the issue of cause or effect being raised.
For example, a person with an existing social support network around them may be more likely to choose to own a dog than a person who is without that surrounding help.
There is also a likelihood that a dog owner would be getting regular exercise when walking their dogs, which is known to be good for mental health, whereas the likelihood of the non-dog owners being active is unknown.
However, the researchers claimed while the beneficial effect was not large, it was statistically significant.
It also ties in with other studies suggesting that dog owners are generally happier and live longer.
There is an important caveat. Dogs may be wonderful companions, but they also need a lot of care and attention. If you’re tempted to get one to improve your health and well-being, make sure you understand that it’s a major commitment.
Don’t go ahead unless you’re sure you have the time to care for it properly.
But if you do have the time, you may find you’re getting a new best friend. One that always lifts you up and never lets you down.
Cruel owners pretend their ‘Covid’ dogs are strays to get rid of them