Your pet may act as a buffer against mental stress during pandemic, new survey shows

Updated: Oct. 5, 2020 at 5:33 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s time to give your four-legged friend a little extra credit.

The University of York in the UK published a recent study about pets and your mental health. They found that 90% of 6,000 participants think their pets helped them cope emotionally during the pandemic.

But what is about having an animal in the house that makes us feel better? Dr. Lucinda DeGrange, a licensed psychologist of Audubon Behavioral Health, says your pets may help fill a void the pandemic lockdown created.

“We experience how important it is to be in contact with other people and when that really is not possible, it makes it even nicer if we have pets at home that can kind of replace that,” she said.

Dr. DeGrange says what she hears about the most during the pandemic is loneliness and unpredictability, which can also lead to stress.

“Unpredictability is associated with the development of PTSD symptoms,” said the Psychologist. “So, the more you can quell that unpredictability, the more manageable things will be for us.”

That’s where your pets come in.

Dr. DeGrange also says the routine of feeding Fido or going for a regular walk with your pet can make you feel more in control.

You know you have that structure to you day, and that can be very protective.”

Even if you don’t have a pet, she says watching deer or birds in your backyard can be just as therapeutic.

Watching animals in nature can be very fortifying to your spirit,” said Dr. DeGrange.

Another discovery from the study states that the emotional bond strength with your pets does not differ by animal species. On average, the study’s researchers found that people in the study felt as emotionally close to a guinea pig as they felt to their dog.

The licensed psychologist doesn’t suggest you go out and buy a pet to make you feel better, though. Animals are no replacement for mental health help.

Also, she points out that pet ownership comes with some worry, like being able to afford care for your pet. But research shows us that the positives outweigh the negatives.

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