Most households in the United States have at least one pet. If you took a survey of pet owners, many would say their pet is a member of the family. Pets often bring joy, love, and light into a home. In addition, research has illustrated that pets can result in many benefits for our physical and mental health. The Center for Disease Control reported that having a pet can help to decrease one’s blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness.
In the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, Allen McConnell and colleagues published their findings regarding the positive consequences of pet ownership. Across three studies, McConnell highlighted advantages of owning a pet, including improved self-esteem, less depression, and less loneliness. Pet owners reported greater benefits when their pets “fulfilled social needs” or provided them with a source of social support. Interestingly, these benefits were independent of human sources of social support. Moreover, McConnell and colleagues conducted an experiment in which they found that thinking about one’s pet protected against feelings of social rejection. Taken together, it is clear that pets offer additional, beneficial sources of support for their owners, which can help buffer against life’s stress.
Pets also, of course, involve increased responsibility, costs, and time commitments. If you or your child is interested in adding a pet to your family, make sure to consider and discuss the logistical impact of such a decision. If the timing is right, enjoy the benefits of your newest addition – he/she is likely to bring a smile to your face!