Benefits of Human-Animal Bond
October is a great month, especially with Thanksgiving and Halloween; but did you know that the entire month is focused on mental health as well? October is deemed Canada’s “Healthy Workplace Month” with focus on mental health. Oct 1st through Oct 6th was mental “Illness Awareness Week” and October 10th was “World Mental Health Day”. It seems that stress is prevalent in our society in part due to our fast pace of living, constant stimulation and worrying about issues beyond our control. There is much that we can do to help each other, including developing and promoting the human-animal bond, which has been proven to be beneficial to individuals and communities as a whole.
The human-animal bond has existed for thousands of years! This interaction encompasses any situation where there is interaction between people and animal(s) at an individual and/or cultural level. These interactions are diverse, distinctive and may be fleeting and/or profound.
As many of us already intuitively know, the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship. This relationship is influenced by behaviors essential to the health and well being of both. This includes, among other things, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.
Any pet owner will tell you that living with a pet comes with many benefits, including constant companionship, unconditional love and affection. Not only are people happier in the presence of animals, they’re also healthier. In a survey of pet owners, conducted by Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership.
Positive human-animal interaction is related to the changes in physiological variables in both humans and animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress such as fear and anxiety, as well as an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. Pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions. It has been proven that pets provide a sense of security and routine, which provides emotional and social support. Further studies have also shown that pets are facilitators of getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks. Just ask anyone in the dog park!
As our understanding of the human-animal bond grows, we will continue to raise awareness of the health benefits of pet ownership and animal-assisted intervention. While getting a pet, seeking pet therapy, or finding ways to spend more time with your companion animal are great ways to support mental health, this information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Your Westmount veterinary health team wants people to be healthy by including pets in their lives – safely and responsibly. Together, we can all experience the healing power of the human-animal bond.
We are here to help you help your pet!