New research suggests that pets can help people who are living with mental illness to manage their condition.
We understand the positive effects of having a pet in the home - they're constant companions, personal trainers, active family members and your biggest fan. New research from the University of Manchester1 now suggests that pets can also assist people with special needs.
“This new research takes our knowledge about the human-animal bond a step further suggesting that pets can help people who are struggling with a serious mental illness to manage their mental health," says Dr Paula parker, President of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).
“There’s already strong evidence to indicate that owning a pet brings health benefits"Dr Paula Parker
A study2 involving 54 participants with a severe mental illness identified a pet as being important in the everyday management of their illness. Increasing exercise by walking a dog is one example and community engagement another - the study conducted by the University of Western Australia found that pets facilitate first meetings and conversations between neighbours, with over 60% of dog owners reporting that they got to know their neighbours through their pets.
“While pets can improve our health and wellbeing, it’s important to remember that the human-animal bond is a two-way street and we need to provide the same benefits to our pets by ensuring we properly care for their health and welfare,” said Dr Parker.
1. Brooks H, Rushton K, Walker S et al. Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry 2016;16:409. DOI: 10.1186/s12888-016-1111-3.
2. Wood L, Martin K, Christian H et al. Social capital and pet ownership: a tale of four cities. SSM Population Health 2017;3:442–447.
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