Mental Health Mondays: The Pet Effect

By Carolina Boyd

After a long day at work, nothing compares to the joyful feeling of coming home to your dog or cat. But the love of a furry friend can do more than just provide company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet is good for your overall health.

It’s often called the Pet Effect and it refers to the mutually beneficial relationship that forms between people and their pets. Some of the health benefits of owning a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness
  • Increased exercise and outdoor activities
  • Expanded opportunities for socialization

Having a pet can also help in managing long term mental health conditions such as anxiety or even depression. Positive human-animal interactions can reduce the stress that causes fear and anxiety as well as increase the levels of oxytocin—a mood improving chemical—in the brain.

Therapy dogs are one example of how animals can be a source of comfort and support. They are often brought into hospitals, nursing homes and even schools to help reduce stress in patients and students.

Most households in the United States have at least one pet. So you can take comfort in knowing that the right pet exists for just about everyone. As research expands, awareness of the various health benefits of pet ownership will continue to grow and more people will be able to experience the health healing powers of the Pet Effect.