Pets are good for mental health

Pets can benefit the social and emotional well-being of everybody - not just those with health issues, new research has found. Published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study revealed pet-owners fared better in numerous tests when compared with those who do not own a cat or dog.

Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University - a Catholic, Jesuit institution that has around 13,000 students - discovered those with a four-legged friend often have greater self-esteem, feel less lonely and are more physically fit.

The investigators also showed through the research - which included three separate experiments - that owning an animal makes individuals more conscientious, extraverted and less fearful, while looking after a pet also results in people becoming less preoccupied.

According to the researchers: "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."

Dr Deborah Wells, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "This study adds to the growing body of evidence for pets being able to enhance their owners' physical and mental well-being.

"Further work is now needed to determine the mechanisms by which companion animals may exert such health benefits."