A new study from the U.K. is one of the first to review evidence on how a companion animal or pet can help a person manage their mental health.
The study, led by Dr. Helen Brooks from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, aimed to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition.
The research appears in BMC Psychiatry.
The study team systematically reviewed 17 international research papers, to identify the positive, negative, and neutral impacts of pet ownership.
The research highlighted the “intensiveness” of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis.
The negative aspects of pet ownership were also highlighted, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet may cause.
“Our review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem,” Brooks said.