A dog is said to be man’s best friend, but does pet ownership improve the quality of life? Although this is a popular belief, a study published in frontiers in psychology He suggests that having a stronger relationship with your dog could actually be linked to increased anxiety and depression.
Pet ownership can be a very important bond for many people, and dogs in particular are loyal companions to a large number of individuals. People seem to think that owning a pet is good for mental health, but the research is mainly about therapy or service animals. Research focusing on the natural property of pets has yielded mixed and complex results. The new study sought to clarify the relationship between dog ownership and people’s mental well-being.
“The general public and media are portraying dogs as dramatically good for our mental health,” explained study author Carrie Westgarth, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool. “As someone who has owned many dogs who I believe have added happiness to my life, but also added stress and anxiety, I knew the reality was more complicated. I also spent a great deal of time helping owners of dogs with behavioral problems, who obviously find it difficult Great to own their dogs.”
Westgarth and colleagues used data from 1,693 dog owners recruited from the United Kingdom as their sample. Participants were recruited online via social media. Participants completed a questionnaire containing open and closed questions about their dogs, relationship, physical and mental health, well-being, and demographics. Open-ended questions included the reasons for owning their dog and how they think having their dog affects their mental health.
Researchers have found that people who have stronger bonds with their dog tend to have positive outcomes, including increased emotional support and companionship. But there were also some negative results. The people who interacted the most with their dogs had worse depression and higher levels of anxiety.
The open-ended questions revealed a lot of wonderful results of owning a dog, including enhanced self-acceptance, providing purpose, enhancing enjoyment, and reducing emotional pain. Additionally, open-ended questions have shown that some people may feel that meeting a dog’s needs is a burden.
“While having a dog can bring us benefits, such as motivation to exercise, fun and companionship, it also brings us challenges. It’s not the answer for those suffering from depression and anxiety — in fact, it may even make it worse,” Westgarth told PsyPost. bad in some contexts.
“Although many people have said that owning a dog has helped them manage some of their mental health symptoms, such as distracting from negative thoughts, providing motivation, by instilling a routine and purpose, the burden of responsibility that comes from feeling the need to care because this dog can be overwhelming and prevents its owners from communicating with other people as they did before.”
This study sought to delve into the relationship between dog ownership and well-being. Despite its successes, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that causation cannot be determined in this study, and it is possible that people with high anxiety and depression are more likely to adopt a dog rather than the other way around. In addition, this sample was predominantly female, which may limit generalizability.
“The main limitation of the study is that the data is cross-sectional all at once, so we don’t know whether a strong relationship with their dogs causes owners to score higher on depression and anxiety, or whether they have higher levels of depression and anxiety that prompt dog owners to seek out dog ownership and formation. A strong relationship with them,” Westgarth explained. “Qualitative data from open-text responses suggest the possibility of both.”
More information about the relationship between a dog owner and mental health can be found in my book: Happy Dog Owner: Finding Health and Happiness With Your Dog’s Help. “
the study, “Dogs and the good life: a cross-sectional study of the relationship between the dog owner relationship and owner mental well-being‘, written by Ekaterini Mercury, Taryn M. Graham, Margaret Elizabeth O’Hare, Rebecca Bouriwall, and Carrie Westgarth.
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