Many households have adopted or purchased a pet during the Covid-19 pandemic to combat isolation. If the benefits of interactions with dogs, cats and other small companions are known, American researchers say that people who were around an animal during the health crisis were not healthier or happier than others.
Benefits felt by owners…
Researchers at Michigan State University came to this conclusion after assessing the health of 767 volunteers on three occasions in May 2020. They took into account different indicators of well-being and asked participants of the study to reflect on the role of companion animals. Most people interviewed said that animals contributed to their happiness, providing them with affection and companionship. According to them, they also helped them feel more positive emotions.
The volunteers also explained to the scientists that having a pet comes with many responsibilities. They spoke of the stress they felt at the idea of looking after a living being and the difficulties they encountered when they had to telework in the presence of their furball. But these disadvantages seemed much less important to them than the benefits associated with sharing daily life with a dog, a cat, a rabbit or a bird.
Not the miracle cure for isolation
However, scientists have noticed that these benefits are mainly related to personal feelings. “In our quantitative analyses, we found that pet ownership was not significantly associated with well-being“, they write in their article, recently published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. No factor had an impact on the state of health of the “pet parents” (type of animal, personality of the owners, degree of proximity they have with their animal, etc.).
These results show that pets are not a miracle cure for life’s annoyances. “When people think their friends are lonely or need companionship, they advise them to get a pet. But it’s unlikely to be as transformative as they imagine” William Chopik, associate professor in the psychology department at Michigan State University and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Adopting an animal is a long-term commitment
It is therefore important to think twice before adopting or buying an animal. This is a real long-term commitment, which involves asking pragmatic questions about the necessary budget (food, health insurance, etc.) or the preferred method of care in the event of absence.