Dogs May Help Reduce COVID-19 Pandemic Stress

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Researchers claim that dogs can provide comfort and stress relief to their owners.
Valentina Barreto / Stocksy
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress levels for many people.
  • Researchers say dogs can help reduce stress on their owners by providing comfort and social support.
  • Experts say dogs can also help reduce anxiety in some people.
  • They say you need to make sure everyone in your household is on board and that you have the time and money to care for a dog before you get one.

Having a dog could be helpful in dealing with depression and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It depends new search published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study looked at the self-reported depression, anxiety, and happiness scores of 768 dog owners and 767 potential dog owners.

People who have a connection to at least one dog in their household, the researchers reported, have done better in some areas than others when it comes to their mental health throughout the pandemic.

Dog owners versus potential dog owners said:

  • significantly lower depression score
  • much more social support available
  • closer bond / engagement with pets
  • no significant difference in anxiety score
  • no significant difference in happiness score

According to the study authors, owning a dog may have given people a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped alleviate some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. .

About 70 percent of dog owners and 65 percent of potential dog owners in the study said they had received high social support from family and friends during the pandemic.

If you share your life with a dog, you may already know how beneficial it has been to your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For potential dog owners or people who are considering having a dog (especially to improve their mental health), you might be wondering if this is really a good idea.

Akua K. Boateng, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Philadelphia providing individual and couples therapy, explains that dogs can help with depression because they decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, both of which are inherent in depressive symptoms.

Dogs can also encourage physical exercise (going out, going for walks, etc.) and socializing with other dog owners or dog lovers.

Boateng adds that dogs can relieve anxiety in the following ways:

  • Dogs can help by calming the nervous system during anxiety symptoms.
  • Dogs are intuitive and can experience mood swings, which can make them feel like they are taken care of by their owners.
  • A pet can just be a distraction from the anxious thought loops.
  • Cuddling with the dog can decrease stress in the body.
  • Dogs can help people defuse panic attacks.

Adopting a dog is no easy task and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“The responsibility of caring for a pet can be stressful. If a person feels overwhelmed with the daily chores of their own life, it can make the situation worse, ”Boateng told Healthline.

Ask yourself if you have the time, energy, and money to take care of a dog. Chat with the other members of your household to make sure everyone is on board before moving forward with a dog.

The National Alliance Against Mental Illness States that while dogs can be difficult to manage, the added responsibility can also help a person with depression develop greater self-esteem.

Boateng warns that if your dog is elderly, the loss of this pet can lead to mental health issues due to the emotional connection and support the animal provides.

She said it’s best to plan ahead and make sure you have the right mental and social support to reduce the impact of losing a pet.

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