Your pet is good for your mental health, according to a study. Researchers from the universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Southampton suggest that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. A previous study said that for individuals suffering from various mental illness, pets can provide them with unconditional support as well as help manage stigma.
There is increasing recognition of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to the comprehensive role of companion animals and how pets might contribute to the work associated with managing a long-term mental health condition.
The study, led by Dr Helen Brooks from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, aimed to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition.
The study team systematically reviewed 17 international research papers, to identify the positive, negative and neutral impacts of pet ownership. The research highlighted the ‘intensiveness’ of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis.
The negative aspects of pet ownership were also highlighted, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet has. The findings have been published in BMC Psychiatry.