It won't come as a surprise to those who love their furry friends, but a new poll finds many Americans saying their pets offer them mental health benefits and are a part of the family.
Roughly 86% of cat and dog owners said their pets had a positive impact on their well-being, the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Healthy Minds Monthly Poll found. Owners of fish, birds and turtles were less likely to say so, at 62%. Still, about 88% of all pet owners said their animals were part of their family.
“People recognize that there is something special about bonds between humans and their pets,” said APA President Dr. Rebecca Brendel.
“The animals we bring into our lives and our families play many roles, from nonjudgmental companions that we love to key partners in reducing our stress and anxiety," she said in an APA news release. "Americans clearly recognize that our relationships with our pets can have noticeable benefits for our overall mental health.”
About 50% of 2,200 people surveyed in February said they had dogs, 35% had cats, 3% had a variety of other pets and 31% had no pets.
But there were some downsides to being so attached to their pets.
Among the concerns pets brought their owners were worries about the pets aging or dying, at 71%, their pets' health conditions, at 66%, arrangements while traveling, at 56%, and health care-related expenses, at 58%.
About 29% of those who didn't own a pet said they couldn't afford to, while 22% said they didn't have time to care for a pet and 11% said they were mourning a deceased pet.
Still, “the benefits of pet ownership to many Americans seem to outweigh the stressors,” APA CEO and Medical Director Dr. Saul Levin said in the release. “If pets are not an option for your family, but you are seeking that connection, there are many opportunities to volunteer with animals that may also benefit your life.”
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on the benefits of pets.
SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association, news release, March 1, 2023