<p>A woman at the park with her dog</p>

A woman at the park with her dog

Dog owners were ‘less depressed’ during the pandemic, study finds

People with dogs feel like they have more ‘social support’ than those who don’t

Saman Javed
Thursday 16 December 2021 12:09

Owning a dog may have cushioned owners from some of the negative psychological impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study suggests

Researchers in St Louis, Missouri found that those who own a dog have been significantly less depressed throughout the pandemic than those who would like to own one, but do not.

The study, published in the Plos One journal on 15 December, surveyed 1,535 adults across the US on their levels of depression, anxiety and happiness.

Those who owned a dog said they felt like they had more “social support” available to them (70 per cent), compared to those who didn’t (65 per cent).

“This degree of social support is likely to have provided a buffering effect against the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the study said.

However, the study did not find any difference in scores of happiness and anxiety between the two groups.

Researchers said their findings demonstrate that “dogs may positively contribute to the wellbeing of owners during difficult times”.

The results add to findings from earlier studies that owning a dog can be beneficial to mental health.

Dogs “are considered to be dependent and caring towards their owners with unconditional love”, the study said.

It continued: “Pets provide tactile comfort and recreational distraction from worries. In contrast with other social interactions, no special social skills are usually required to elicit a positive response from a pet.”

Earlier this year research by the University of York found that, of the almost 6,000 people surveyed in the UK, 90 per cent said their pet had helped them cope better during Covid restrictions. Additionally, 96 per cent said their pet had helped them keep fit and active.

Researchers also measured the human-animal bond between people and their pets. Dr Elena Ratschen, lead author of the study, said the bond was stronger among people who had better mental health.

“We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog,” Ratschen said.

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