Did pets improve owners’ well-being during the pandemic?


Research found that pet ownership was not reliably associated with well-being. Photo: AFP

Many households adopted or bought a pet during the Covid-19 pandemic to help counter loneliness and isolation. While the benefits of interaction with dogs, cats and other small companions are well known, US researchers claim that people who interacted with an animal during the pandemic were no happier than others.

Researchers at Michigan State University came to this conclusion after assessing the well-being of 767 volunteers on three occasions in May 2020. They took into account various indicators of well-being and asked study participants to reflect on the role pets play in their lives. Most of those questioned said that animals contributed to their happiness, providing affection and companionship. They also helped them to feel more positive emotions, the respondents said.

The volunteers also told scientists that having a pet brings many responsibilities. They spoke of the stress they felt at the thought of looking after a living creature, and the difficulties they encountered when they had to work from home with their pet. But these inconveniences seemed far less important than the benefits associated with sharing day-to-day life with a dog, cat, rabbit or bird.

However, the scientists note that these benefits mostly take the form of anecdotal personal reports.

“In our quantitative analyses, we found that pet ownership was not reliably associated with well-being,” the researchers write in their paper, recently published in the Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin.

“Our findings are consistent with a large body of research showing null associations of pet ownership on well-being (quantitatively) but positive reports of pet ownership (qualitatively).”

No single factor had an impact on the well-being levels of the “pet parents” surveyed (type of animal, personality of the owners, degree of closeness they have with their pet, etc).

These results show that pets are no miracle cure for life’s ills or inconveniences.

“People say that pets make them happy, but when we actually measure happiness, that doesn’t appear to be the case,” said William Chopik, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Psychology and co-author of the study, quoted in a news release.

“People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it’s unlikely that it’ll be as transformative as people think.”

That’s why it’s important to think twice before adopting or buying a pet. It’s a real long-term commitment, which means asking yourself pragmatic questions about the budget required (food, health insurance, etc.) or care arrangements for when you can’t be around. – AFP Relaxnews

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Pandemic , pet ownership , companion pet , pet care


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