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Dog owners were ‘less depressed’ during the pandemic, New study finds



Being a dog owner may have lessened the psychological impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study has revealed.

Researchers in St Louis, Missouri found in a new study that those who own dogs have been significantly less depressed throughout the pandemic than those who would like to own one, but do not.

The study, published in the Plos One journal on 15 December, 2021 surveyed 1,535 adults across the US on their levels of depression, anxiety and happiness.

Those who owned dogs said they felt like they had more “social support” available to them (70 per cent), compared to those who didn’t (65 per cent).

“This degree of social support is likely to have provided a buffering effect against the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the study said.

However, the study did not find any difference in scores of happiness and anxiety between the two groups.

Dogs “are considered to be dependent and caring towards their owners with unconditional love”, the study said.

It continued: “Pets provide tactile comfort and recreational distraction from worries. In contrast with other social interactions, no special social skills are usually required to elicit a positive response from a pet.”

Scientists said their findings demonstrate that “dogs may positively contribute to the wellbeing of owners during difficult times”.

The results add to findings from earlier studies that owning a dog can be beneficial to mental health.

Dr Elena Ratschen, lead author of the study, said the bond was stronger among people who had better mental health.

“We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog,” Ratschen said.

The study comes after research earlier this year by the University of York found that, of the almost 6,000 people surveyed in the UK, 90 per cent said their pet had helped them cope better during Covid restrictions. Additionally, 96 per cent said their pet had helped them keep fit and active.