Being involved with dogs can combat loneliness, depression and anxiety. But don’t just take our word for it, let us show you the facts.
1. Interactions with a dog can combat loneliness
Dogs provide social support, by providing companionship. Companionship eases loneliness by preventing the sense of isolation that a lack of social interaction can induce.
Being with a dog can also lead to improved social interaction with people, as dog-walking involves meeting other dog-walkers and provides a subject for easy conversation and a social network to become involved in.
Fact: A canine companion can be equivalent to a human companion.
- Research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were less lonely and were more socially outgoing than non-owners.
- Dog owners reported that their pet provided a greater sense of belonging and meaning and therefore they were happier and healthier.
- Psychological studies show that important others become ‘included in the self’, whereby loved ones become part of our ‘self-concept’. Research has shown that pets can function similarly in becoming as much a part of the self as family members, so that the same emotional and social support is gained from interaction with them.
2. Being with a dog can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety
Playing with or stroking a dog releases feel-good hormones that reduce fear and anxiety and produce an anti-depressant effect. Dog owners were found to be less likely to suffer from depression.
Fact: It takes only 15-30 minutes with a dog to make you feel more relaxed and calmer.
- Studies show a significant increase of the hormone oxytocin in the blood in both humans and dogs after stroking a dog. Often termed the ‘love’ or ‘feel good’ hormone, oxytocin stimulates social interaction, reduces anxious feelings and increases positive self-perception.
- It has also been found that playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine in the blood, which help you relax and feel good.
3. Dog-owners tend to be healthier
Fact: Dog-owners are nearly nine times more likely to be alive a year after a heart-attack than non-owners.
- Oxytocin also helps us to experience a reduction in stress and its symptoms, resulting in a lower heart rate, and decreased blood pressure.
- The American Heart Association has linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, to a reduced risk of heart disease and greater longevity.
- Studies also found dog-human interaction resulted in a reduction of self-reported fear and anxiety and consequently an improvement of mental and physical health.
- Finally, oxytocin is linked to an enhanced digestive function, growth and restoration, meaning that interaction with a dog can have improved health effects.
If you have a story about how a dog has improved your life (or vice versa) that you'd like to share, please get in touch with us, tell us about it or send us pictures!
Love Rupert the Westie
Written by Elena Holmes