NEWS Mental Health News Pets Play Crucial Role in Fighting Loneliness During COVID-19, Research Shows By Taneasha White Updated on October 14, 2020 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Andrea Rice Fact checked by Andrea Rice Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Andrea Rice is an award-winning journalist and a freelance writer, editor, and fact-checker specializing in health and wellness. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print Bailey Mariner / Verywell Key Takeaways Pets of all types have been shown to lessen the negative effects that COVID-19 has on mental health.Pet companionship has overall positive benefits, but is not a one-size-fits-all solution to pandemic stress. One of the most undeniably challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, besides the disease itself, is the toll that a lack of social interaction has had on mental health. The continued flux between social distancing and quarantine in many places has lead to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Luckily, psychologists are discovering that animal companions may play a significant role in providing relief. A recent study published in PLoS ONE examined whether pets have a role in combating this loneliness, and the role that certain pets can have on a person's mental health state. The results are promising enough to make you consider a trip to the local animal shelter. What Did the Study Show? This study surveyed U.K. residents over the age of 18 about their companion animals. According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), companion animals are defined as, "...any domestic-bred or wild-caught animals, permanently living in a community and kept by people for company, enjoyment, work (e.g. support for blind or deaf people, police, or military dogs) or psychological support–including, but not limited to dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds, and ornamental fish." Of 5,926 survey participants, who varied in demographics regarding age, ethnicity, employment, marital status, and education, nearly 90% owned a pet. The online survey included an 11-item questionnaire requesting response ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree" on a Comfort from Companion Animal Scale (CCA). Researchers used mixed methods to inquire about participants' mental health prior to the lockdown, utilizing the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, a shortened version of the UCLA loneliness scale, and one additional mental health scale known as the SF-36 (MHI-5). This cross-sectional study method revealed that while the state of mental health for individuals prior to the pandemic varied, pet ownership during this time lessened the decline of individual mental health and simultaneously mitigated symptoms of loneliness. What's more, the strength of the human-animal bond did not depend on a pet's species. Animal Companions and Mental Health Animals can serve multiple purposes, ranging from household pals to assistant bomb detectors, but have also been shown to aid in physical and mental health issues. "Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease allergies in children, calm or prevent panic attacks, and overall encourage movement and wellness," says Prairie Conlon, LPC, NCC and clinical director of CertaPet. Prairie Conlon, LPC, NCC Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease allergies in children, calm or prevent panic attacks, and overall encourage movement and wellness. — Prairie Conlon, LPC, NCC Support is also a common role for animals for people with disabilities. Animals may assist folks who are blind, live with seizure disorders, or need help walking. Arguably the most common role for animals is that of companionship, whether it is as a family pet or to combat loneliness in someone who lives solo. "Pets help combat feelings of loneliness by simply being a physical presence that demands routine, accountability, and consistency through feeding, playtime, and general overall care. They require movement and care that often increases personal motivation and self-care habits." says Conlon. Pets can also give people a sense of purpose and grounding in an otherwise chaotic time. "For some people, a pet provides a sense of purpose. Having to feed your pet and take care of them can be a good reason to get out of bed. And that sense of purpose can be vital to your emotional health," says Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and host of the Mentally Strong People podcast. Everyone Has Different Needs The mental health needs of individuals vary, and that's no different during the pandemic. So it's important to do your research before adding another member to your family, since certain pets may require more investment of time and energy than others. For instance, a pet bunny can be an adorable and soothing companion, and probably won't be as expensive as a dog. Amy Morin, LCSW For some people, a pet provides a sense of purpose. Having to feed your pet and take care of them can be a good reason to get out of bed. And that sense of purpose can be vital to your emotional health. — Amy Morin, LCSW The topic of which pet to get might be something to discuss with a mental health expert. "Just like any form of clinical treatment, I want to use a therapeutic modality that suits the client and works well for their lifestyle and where they are at with their mental health symptoms," says Conlon. "I want to explore the pros and cons [of each animal] and then make a decision from there." What This Means For You While pets are known for their positive benefits for emotional, mental, and even physical health, the stressors felt during this pandemic are unprecedented. For those of you that already have a pet at home, it is very likely their presence has helped to alleviate some of your anxiety.However, as with most methods of mental health management, consulting with a doctor or mental health professional is the optimal way to determine if adopting a pet would be right for you. Navigating Touch Deprivation in the Social Distancing Era The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page. 11 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Xiong J, Lipsitz O, Nasri F, et al. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. 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Br J Psychiatry. 1996;169(4):517-521. doi:10.1192/bjp.169.4.516 Brooks HL, Rushton K, Lovell K, et al. The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry. 2018;18(1):31. Beetz A, Uvnäs-moberg K, Julius H, Kotrschal K. Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human-animal interactions: the possible role of oxytocin. Front Psychol. 2012;3:234. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234 Hesselmar B, Hicke-roberts A, Lundell AC, et al. Pet-keeping in early life reduces the risk of allergy in a dose-dependent fashion. PLoS One. 2018;13(12):e0208472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208472 Brooks HL, Rushton K, Lovell K, et al. The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry. 2018;18(1):31. doi:10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2 Chen Y, Kim ES, Koh HK, Frazier AL, Vanderweele TJ. Sense of mission and subsequent health and well-being among young adults: An outcome-wide analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2019;188(4):664-673. doi:10.1093/aje/kwz009 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.