Pets Pump You Up, Study Finds07/14/11
THURSDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Pets are a key source of
social and emotional support for their owners, whether they are
"everyday" people or those facing serious health problems, a news
"We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio.
"Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners," McConnell added.
To assess the benefits of pet ownership, researchers performed
three experiments. First, they asked 217 people (about 80 percent
women, with an average age of 31) whether pet owners differed from
people who didn't have pets in well-being, personality and
attachment style. In general, they found pet owners to be happier,
in better health and better adjusted than non-owners.
Next, they questioned 56 dog owners (about 90 percent women,
with an average age of 42) to determine if they benefited more when
their pet seemed to fulfill their social needs. They found that
owners experienced greater well-being, and reported that their dogs
increased their feelings of belonging, self-esteem and a meaningful
For the third experiment, researchers asked 97 college
undergraduates (average age 19) to write about a time when they
felt excluded. Then they asked them to write about their favorite
pet, or to write about their favorite friend. Writing about their
pets was as therapeutic as writing about a friend, the researchers
The study was recently published online in the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"[T]he present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support," the researchers wrote in a journal news release. "Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges, the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets."
The study authors added that no evidence emerged to show that
relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with
other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human
social support was lacking.
The National Institute of Mental Health provides more
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.