Studies of Happiness & Pets

Photo: CC0, Krista Mangulsone, 2015

Recently I’ve become a pet owner, which has gotten me thinking about an article I read last year on the correlation between owning a pet and overall well-being and happiness. Although pet ownership may not seem like a form of therapy, studies have proven otherwise (given the right situation and owner.)

The article is titled “Get a pet and get happy” from Psychologies UK. Health Blogger and Writer for MentalHealthWise, Martha Roberts explains how our happiness and overall wellbeing can be boosted by having a pet in our life.

Many would agree that having a pet makes us happier but this article aimed at addressing the point that pets actually can make us healthier. Research has shown that blood pressure can be reduced, as well as high cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Empathy is also increased, which is especially great for children to learn at a young age.

 It also reduces stress and makes people feel less lonely. The strong attachment a person forms to a pet is associated with lower levels of depression and greater self-esteem.

In a series of related studies published by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that pet owners had higher levels of wellbeing (i.e. self-esteem and exercise regimens) and individual difference (i.e. conscientiousness and attachment methods.) It was also found that pets provide social support, which promotes many positive physical and psychological benefits to their owners.

Pet ownership can also increase creativity though the actions of daily play. In an article from PsychCentral, play is emphasized as a vital element in our lives, even as we grow from children to adults. Stuart Brown, MD, author, psychiatrist and the founder of The National Institute for Play, wrote that play is like oxygen, it is something that we don’t realize is there until it goes missing.

Play brings joy. And it’s vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships.

From my own experience, I’ve found that owning a pet has definitely increased my happiness. Although rubbing her belly at seven in the morning and cleaning her litter box isn’t the most calming part of pet ownership, the positives have outweighed the negatives.