Study shows dog ownership helped buffer against the psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic | Companion Consultancy

Study shows dog ownership helped buffer against the psychological impact of COVID-19 pandemic

  • Purina Petcare questioned 1535 dog owners and potential dog owners1
  • 67% reported that the pandemic had an emotional impact on them, 33% had experienced an impact on their health and 45% reported a financial impact
  • Those who were dog owners reported a stronger sense of social support and lower depression scores

Purina is raising awareness of its recent survey, which found that dog ownership helped to support dog owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online survey questioned 1535 current and potential dog owners using validated scales assessing depression, anxiety, happiness, attitude and commitment toward their pet, and perceived social support. It was found that dog owners had higher perceived level of social support and lower depression scores. The survey also identified that those who owned a dog had a more positive attitude to pets compared to potential dog owners who aspired to pet ownership in the future. The results suggest that the bond between dogs and their owners has helped to buffer against some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Purina survey results underscored the psychological and physiological effects of COVID on individuals, with 67% of participants reporting they felt that COVID had had an emotional impact on them. One-third of participants also felt that their health had been impacted by the pandemic, while 45% had experienced a financial impact.

Francois Martin, M.A., Ph.D., Applied behaviour and welfare research section leader at Purina and lead Purina scientist on the project says “Our research showed that dog owners fared better from a social support and emotional standpoint during COVID than people who like dogs but didn’t own one during the pandemic. Our work adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the power of the human pet bond, especially in times of stress.”

Libby Sheridan MVB MRCVS, Purina Scientific Affairs Manager for the UK and Ireland says that the changes brought about by the pandemic were significant for both pet owners and the veterinary profession, “It’s clear that all individuals have found it stressful coping with the effects of the pandemic. While the rise in puppies during this time also placed an increased workload on the veterinary profession, this study shows that pets were also playing an important role by offering comfort and companionship. Veterinary teams have therefore likely made a hugely important contribution to supporting the health and wellbeing of both pets and people throughout these difficult times.”

She continued, “The survey provided a unique opportunity to shed light on whether dog ownership would help to reduce or buffer the negative psychological effects of COVID-19. The research aimed to build on prior evidence that suggests that dogs can contribute to their owner’s positive affective state – a psychological term describing when people are in generally positive frame of mind like excited, enthusiastic, and inspired. Purina also set out to gain a better understanding of whether the power of the pet-owner bond continued to persist during the pandemic. Not only was the effect of dogs shown to be positive, it was also measurable and statistically significant.”

These results show the positive psychological impact of dog ownership during uncertain times and the important role played by pets in reducing the negative impact of adverse circumstances on people. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the important contribution of veterinary professionals, many of whom continued to work throughout the pandemic to provide much needed services.

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