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Pet owners happier, healthier, have more self-esteem than non-owners

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Pet owners

Pet owners are generally happier, mentally healthier and well-adjusted than non-pet owners, finds a new study. Researchers wanted to find out the value of pet ownership beyond what is already known from correlated studies.

The finding, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and conducted at Miami University and Saint Louis University, found several positive and healthy characteristics of pet owners that they failed to find among individuals who don’t own pets.

Pet owners more physically fit

Because much has been explored about pet ownership for those with health challenges, such as senior citizens and patients with chronic illness, the scientists wanted to understand the benefits of owning a pet for so-called everyday people.

Researcher Allen R. McConnell, PhD, of Miami University in Ohio said:

“Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

The study finding came from surveys of 217 people, whose average age was 31 and mean income $77,000 annually. Seventy nine percent were women.

The goal was to determine how pet owners differed in well-being from those without pets.

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It turns out pet owners are as interactive with their families and friends as they are with pets. In all areas of mental and overall health, pet owners emerged ahead of non-owners for well-being.

Two more studies show benefits of pet ownership

In a second study, the researchers found greater well-being among dog owners who perceived their pet helped them fulfill their social needs. The owners had higher self-esteem and meaningful existence. The analysis included56 dog owners, average age of 42 and mean family income of $65,000. Ninety one percent were women.

The last study looked at 97 undergraduates with an average age of 19. The respondents felt better about social rejection because they owned pets. In the experiment, participants were asked to write about a time when they felt excluded. The finding also showed feelings of rejection were allayed on the same from writing about a pet; on par with writing about a friend

According to the authors, “The present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support.

They explain past studied have focused on pet owners with physical challenges, where this study shows there are definite benefits for everyday people who bring a pet into their life.

Contrary to the notion that having a pet leads to social isolation and reliance on a furry (or other) animal friend for companionship, the new study showed the opposite. It also shows pets aren't just for those who are depressed, handicapped, or chronically ill. Pet owners were found to be happier, mentally and physically healthier, well-adjusted and socially interactive, compared to those without pets.

Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership.
McConnell, Allen R.; Brown, Christina M.; Shoda, Tonya M.; Stayton, Laura E.; Martin, Colleen E.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jul 4, 2011, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0024506

This page updated October 25, 2014



Our mental state and mood are closely related our overall health. Being in a positive state of mind can do wonders for you health. Another reason I love my pups!  I love my lab and wiener dog, they make me laugh everyday!