A small study from the United Kingdom says that people who have long-term mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or other social, emotional, or physical health conditions may benefit from owning a pet.
Here are some ways that having a pet can help someone with long-term illness:
- They provide a constant, stable relationship
- They provide interaction for those with limited contact with other humans
- They provide a constant physical presence
- Their needs may distract owners from their own symptoms
- Caring for pets may provide a reason to continue pushing forward in life
- Pets provide constant love without judgement
This study, published in BCM Psychiatry, asked participants to write the names of people, places, and things that provide support in their life. They were also asked to rank their support by using a diagram. Almost half of the participants considered pets to be in their closest social support. Twenty percent of participants ranked pets in their second circle of support. The study concluded that pets are more important to the human-social system than previously thought, and we need to continue encouraging pet ownership for those who have certain mental health issues.
It is important as health care providers to consider our patients’ mental and emotional states as well as their physical health. And although I am not a psychiatrist or therapist, I understand that there’s a link between physical and mental health. The inability to have children, a hysterectomy, or even just having recurring gynecological symptoms are physical issues that can have a huge effect on a woman’s mental or emotional state. And sometimes medicine is not the cure. We need to continue looking for other ways to treat our patients, and adopting a pet may help.
Source: Crist, Carolyn. “Pets Can Help Owners Manage Mental Illness.” December 21, 2016. Medscape. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/873516?src=WNL_infoc_170716_MSCPEDIT&impID=1388059&faf=1