Dog owners had less depression signs in pandemic

During the pandemic, dog-lovers felt better if they had a dog to love than if they did not.

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The global pandemic in 2020 led to some positive shifts in pet ownership. | (ManuRodmez | Shutterstock.com)
The global pandemic in 2020 led to some positive shifts in pet ownership. | (ManuRodmez | Shutterstock.com)

During the pandemic, dog-lovers felt better if they had a dog to love than if they did not. In a study by researchers with Purina PetCare, dog owners felt more social support and reported fewer symptoms of depression than people who liked dogs but didn’t own one in 2020. PLOS ONE published the study results.

“Our work was based on the assumption that social support helps people cope with difficult situations such as the pandemic, and that dogs provide social support to people who like dogs,” study co-author Francois Martin, Ph.D., section leader with Nestlé Purina, told Petfood Industry in an email. “Our prediction was that dog people who have dogs would fare better than dog people who do not have dogs. This is what we found. Dog owners reported more social support available to them. And they reported fewer depression symptoms.”

Research on dog owners during the pandemic

Survey participants answered a series of questions designed to grade them on six psychological scales. Analysis of their answers revealed respondents’ attitudes towards pets and perceived levels of emotional support, while looking for symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“We then compared the average scores of the two groups and found out that the dog owner group had lower depression scores (e.g., they reported fewer depression symptoms),” he said.

Only people who would consider owning a dog were included in the study.

“We were most interested in understanding the role of pet dogs on ‘dog people’ who own or do not own a dog,” Martin said. “It is fair to assume that people who do not own and have no desire to own a dog would perceive to gain no benefit from owning pet dogs, and that they seek and receive social support through other means.”

 More than 750 people made up each group of survey respondents. 

“These results underscore our core belief that pets and people are better together and add to the growing body of scientific proof of this sentiment,” Martin said. “Celebrating and encouraging pet ownership and its benefits is one way to use this and other research on the benefits of the human-animal bond. It is very important to us at Purina to have a holistic understanding of pets and their impact on our lives, because the incredible bond we share with pets is what continues to inspire and drive our business.”

 

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