Pets have a positive effect on people suffering from mental illness, says Australian Veterinary Association

The positive effects that pets have on people have been well-researched.

Recent research from the University of Manchester now suggests that pets can help people who are living with a mental illness to manage their condition.

President of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Dr Paula Parker says: “we’ve known for some time that the human-animal bond plays an important and positive role in the health and wellbeing of the community.”

“Benefits can include companionship, health and social improvements and assistance for people with special needs.

“This new research takes our knowledge about the human-animal bond a step further suggesting that pets can help people who are struggling with a serious mental illness to manage their mental health.

“Only through more research like this, can we come to better understand just how increasingly valuable animals are to an individual’s wellbeing and the community,” she said.

The study involved 54 participants with a severe mental illness, for example, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Twenty-five of the participants identified a pet as being important in the everyday management of their illness. What’s more, of these 25 participants, more than half identified their pet as being one of the most important things to them in managing their mental health.

“There’s already strong evidence to indicate that owning a pet brings health benefits including physical health benefits, for example, dog owners increase their exercise by walking their pet.

“Research also suggests that pets have positive effects on the community. A study conducted by the University of Western Australia found that pets facilitate first meetings and conversations between neighbours, with over 60 per cent of dog owners reporting that they got to know their neighbours through their pets.

“While pets can improve our health and wellbeing, it’s important to remember that the human-animal bond is a two-way street and we need to provide the same benefits to our pets by ensuring we properly care for their health and welfare,” she said.