20 New Year, New You Pets The power of pets

Are you thinking about welcoming a pet into your life in 2021? You can now add one more reason to the list: pets can support your mental health and wellbeing. Words: Monica Mizzi

are you aware of the positive impact pets can have on your wellbeing? Mental health experts are generally


in agreement about the benefits associated with pet ownership. “Pets have been shown to have loads of mental health benefits,” says Mathew Baker, a professional counsellor and co-founder of Te Depression Project, a platform with more than two million social media followers that teaches people effective strategies to beat depression. “In addition to bringing joy,

they can also meet some deeper needs many of us have, such as providing meaning, fulfilment and companionship, as well as much needed comfort and safety on those extra tough days,” he explains. “For these reasons as well as many others, pets are often reported to be effective at decreasing one’s symptoms of anxiety and depression.” Mandy Cotter, co-founder and cat

homing director of Cat Chat, the Cat Rescue Resource, agrees that pets can be helpful for their owners’ mental health. “Caring for animals helps to combat loneliness and relieve depression,” she says. “Pets bring a magical combination

of mutual affection, companionship and unconditional love into our lives,” Mandy says. “Tey help to lower your stress and anxiety levels by adding structure to your day and encouraging you to unwind.” A growing body of research has


also highlighted the strong link between pet ownership and positive mental health outcomes. A 2018 study published in BMC Psychiatry,

Mandy Cotter and Mathew Baker

titled ‘Te power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence’, found that pets played a significant role in helping their owners to manage their mental health. Tey were shown to provide their owners with a distraction from the symptoms of their mental health problems. More recent research has

examined the supportive role that pets have played during the coronavirus pandemic. A research article published in the September 2020 edition of PLOS ONE, titled ‘Human-animal relationships and interactions during the Covid-19 lockdown phase in the UK: investigating links with mental health and loneliness’, analysed the results of a cross-sectional online survey of nearly 6,000 UK residents, around 90% of whom had at least one companion animal. Of those surveyed, 86.5% stated

that their pets constituted an important source of emotional support; 72.5% stated their pets keep them fit and active; and, 94.4% stated their animal has positive effects on their family. But, of course, pets are for life, not just mental health support.

Promotional Content • Saturday 9th January 2021

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