We already know that watching cute animal videos is good for us, and we already know that having a dog makes you live longer. But, if you need more proof that furry friends are more than just furry friends, a new study puts the spotlight on the role that pets have played in 2020 when it comes to our mental health.
A University of South Australia study explores how we've coped with lockdowns, job losses, and social isolation with pets. Right now, pets have provided comfort, companionship, and a sense of self-worth.
Dr. Janette Young, the study's lead author, says the main driver of it all is physical touch. It's something we've all taken for granted or overlooked. And, in absence of that, animals have become a source of much-needed comfort.
Researchers interviewed 32 people, and more than 90 percent said that pets comforted and relaxed them during the pandemic.
"In a year when human contact has been so limited and people have been deprived of touch, the health impacts on our quality of life have been enormous," she says. "To fill the void of loneliness and provide a buffer against stress, there has been a global upsurge in people adopting dogs and cats from animal shelters during lockdowns. Breeders have also been inundated, with demands for puppies quadrupling some waiting lists."
It's not just dogs and cats, too. Participants also mentioned birds, sheep, horses, and reptiles as helpful.
Dr. Young hopes that governments all around the world take notice. She also cites hospitals, hospices, and aged care facilities to step in and encourage pet connections. "Residential aged care is yet to recognize the value of human-animal relationships. Had more pets being living with their owners in aged care when COVID-19 restrictions were applied, it could have helped people immeasurably," she says.