Many studies have been done on pets and mental health. In a recent study by BMC Psychiatry, participants were given a diagram with numerous circles of support. 60% of participants placed pets in their innermost circle and 20% in the second circle.
More findings indicated that pets provided a distraction from symptoms and negative experiences, encourage responsibility, routine and activity, and provided positive relationships for those who had troubled or limited relationships with people.
Studies have also shown that animals such as dogs can sense feelings and provide comfort and companionship in times of distress.
In a world where human relationships are often complex, pets provide an uncomplicated relationship. They are affectionate, non-judgemental and provide us with a sense of being needed. They get us out of the house and in the community. And as you may have experienced before, it is a lot easier to start a conversation with a stranger by talking about your pets than simply approaching them on the street.
Pet therapy is an often undervalued option in the recovery process. Pets can be a great resource in conjunction with community and clinical support. The US Department of Veteran Affairs runs a dog therapy program to assist with PTSD recovery. Why not join a dog-walking group, or if you're unable to take on full-time ownership of a pet, there are several pet therapy programs you can sign up to, where you can spend one-on-one time with animals.
Source: ABC Online