Next time your spouse or SO accuses you of loving your horse more than them, you can tell them about this research report that shows loving animals does not come at the expense of loving other humans.
Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted three experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called every day people. Their findings were reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and published online by the American Psychological Association.
Of no surprise to all of us pet owners, they found that animals are important sources of social and emotional support to people, but that these relationships with pets did not come at the expense with their relationships with other people.
Owning animals does seem to make people healthier, happier and more balanced individuals.
“We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions,” said lead researcher Dr Allen McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio.
“Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”
In this study, 217 people (79 per cent women, mean age 31, mean annual family income $77,000) answered surveys aimed at determining whether pet owners in the group differed from people who didn’t have pets in the areas of well-being, personality type and attachment style.
Several differences between the groups emerged, and in all cases, pet owners were happier, healthier and better adjusted than were non-owners.
A second experiment, involving 56 dog owners (91 per cent of whom were women, with a mean age of 42 and average annual family income of $65,000), examined whether pet owners benefit more when their pet is perceived to fulfill their social needs better.
This study found greater well-being among owners whose dogs increased their feelings of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence.
The last study, comprising 97 undergraduates with an average age of 19, found that pets can make people feel better after experiencing rejection.
Subjects were asked to write about a time when they felt excluded. Then they were asked to write about their favorite pet, or to write about their favorite friend, or to draw a map of their campus.
The researchers found that writing about pets was just as effective as writing about a friend when it came to staving off feelings of rejection.
“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,” the researchers wrote.
“Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges … the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets.”