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Can pets really improve our mental health?

By Stephanie Kesselem

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While 98% of pet owners consider their pet apart of the family, not everyone understands the positive impact animals can make on mental health*. We all know that snuggling with your fur baby can make you feel happier, but did you know it has a long-lasting impression on your health? Pets can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression while increasing social fulfillment. Plus – they’re pretty cute to look at!

Pets Help People of All Ages

It has become more frequent for colleges, hospitals, and other large organizations to bring in therapy dogs to assist in decompressing their students or employees. Organizations like The Good Dog Foundation make these types of therapy sessions possible. The Good Dog Foundation trains volunteers and professionals to team up with their dogs to help people heal from the trauma of disease, to facilitate learning, and to cope with disability. The effects that the dogs have on the public is visible in mood shifts and sensory regulation. But don’t let that diminish your cat’s ego – according to The Mental Health Foundation, 76% of cat owners say their everyday lives are made better due to their feline companions!**

Children with Pets

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Children that grow up with pets in their lives reap the benefits as well! Encouraging your child to engage and care for the family pet can lead to a secure attachment. The positive outcomes that could come from a secure companionship include reduced aggression, better well-being, and quality of life. This also allows the child to take on chores and responsibilities that can help form a sense of importance and contribution.

According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), animal-assisted therapy can lead to increased social exploration, awareness, motivation, and more. Service dogs for children living with ASD provide a unique support system that encourages calmness, safety, and improved motor function. The service dogs can help establish a routine for children with ASD that helps prepare them for independence and “integration into their community.”*

Pet Ownership Brings Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Forming Connections Through Pets

It is important to surround yourself with strong relationships and support systems – four-legged or otherwise! Many pet owners give credit to their pets for the connections they’ve made and the benefits that stem from them. In research done by HABRI: 

  • 79% of pet parents reported reduced stress
  • 73% reported a new sense of purpose
  • 65% reported easier connections with others
  • 40% reported that they received some form of social support through people that they met due to their pet

Meeting new friends and creating relationships can be a bit easier when your pet has your back. These relationships can help keep loneliness at bay!

Increasing Activity & Exercise

The majority of pet owners believe that animals help them be physically active and cope with physical and emotional symptoms, including pain. Sixty-four percent of pet owning respondents reported they are more physically active throughout the week*. Take your dog for a walk, hike, or run and you’ll begin to feel healthier while keeping yourself and your pet in great shape!

Pets Can Reduce Anxiety

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Having a pet as a companion can help ease anxiety, reduce depression, and help those with mental disorders to cope appropriately. The feeling of petting an animal can relieve stress or manage strong emotions. In studies done by HABRI surrounding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, veterans who have service dogs saw significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, lower depression, better quality of life, and higher social functioning.



Pets Help Keep Your Routine

Having a pet requires adjustment to your normal day. Pets need to be fed and exercised daily by their humans in order to stay happy and healthy. By keeping your pet on a schedule, in turn, you are setting your day-to-day routine as well. Through rain or shine, happiness or sadness, this routine will balance you just as much as it balances your pet.

We all love our pets so why not thank them for being by your side through thick and thin? Whether it be a long hike or homemade treats, we’re sure they’ll appreciate any time spent with their favorite person.

References

*https://habri.org

**https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2020 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.  Wellness Rewards not available in Rhode Island.