Our pets continue to benefit us mentally, emotionally

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows of its benefits. But, what do pets really do for us?  Can they improve our physical, and mental health – if so, how and why?  What evidence correlates to the positive effect of pets in our lives? Lastly, how have pets benefited us throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic?

For starters, pets truly benefit our mental health. According to the CDC, “Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.” Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, in comparison to those without pets. Also, playing with a dog, or cat can also boost levels of serotonin, and dopamine. Both dopamine, and serotonin are neurotransmitters – although being different in some ways, both boost your pleasure and reward system, which is bound to benefit your mental health.

Furthermore, in a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 66 percent of our generation (Generation Z) attributed reduced levels of stress, and 61 percent attributed reduced levels of anxiety and depression to their pets.  These are some of the highest numbers that the APPA has ever seen.

Nolan Nuccio, sophomore, owns Roxy, a one-year-old Jack Russell.  Roxy enjoys the snow.  (Nolan Nuccio)

Freshman Jack Lobdell says, “[My dog] has benefited my life in numerous ways.  He’s a great companion that always puts a smile on face, relieves stress and gives me something to do by taking care of him/playing with him.”

Moreover, pets benefit you socially. A Harvard survey charted the results of 2,700 men and women in four cities (Perth, Australia; San Diego, California; Portland Oregon; and Nashville, Tennessee), and concluded that being a pet owner was the third most common way that the folks surveyed met others in their neighborhood. Dog owners who commonly walked their dog also were far more likely to befriend others through pet related encounters.

Jack Lobdell’s dogs Odie, age 2, and Indy, age 10, are both black labs. (Jack Lobdell)

Additionally, pets can benefit you physically. The CDC states that pets “can increase opportunities to exercise” – this is proven empirically in a study presented by The New York Times. This study demonstrates that “dog owners are about four times more likely than other people to meet today’s physical activity guidelines.”

Furthermore, pets can also do some remarkable things for our physical health. In a recent study cited by the National Institute of Health (NIH), teens with type 1 Diabetes were more likely to manage their disease, when taking care of a pet (that pet being a fish).

Freshman Hayden Dejanovich states, “From my experiences, my pets have made sure to keep me mentally ready for all challenging times, which is why they are so important to mental and physical health during these times.”

This is Duke, age 1, a mutt who likes to snack on ice. (Sam Schoettle)

Pets have also benefited us students throughout COVID-19.  They have benefited us mentally, physically, and socially – and the data tracks. In fact, adoptions are up 202% from last year, just as the virus began to peak. As COVID-19 rampaged the year of 2020 for all students in their own ways, pets have been proven to benefit us. Who knows where some students would be without pets. All in all, pets truly have an overall benefit for us humans. If you have the opportunity to, please adopt a pet from any of these local adoption centers: