Americans’ Pets Offer Mental Health Support to Their Owners, 1 out of 5 Pet Owners Has an Emotional Support Animal

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Washington, D.C., March 01, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — They say in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. The results of an American Psychiatric Association Healthy Minds Monthly Poll released jointly with the American Veterinary Medical Association seem to align with that adage: Among the many mental health benefits of pets, nearly two-thirds of pet owners say that their animals offer companionship (65%), are a true friend (65%) and provide unconditional love and support (64%).

Eighty-four percent of pet owners say that their pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health, similar to last year’s polling on the topic. The poll was fielded Feb. 6-9, 2024, among 2,200 adults by Morning Consult.

“It’s easy to overlook the role of pets when we’re talking about mental health,” said APA President Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A. “But for people who do enjoy the company of animals, they can be a source of companionship, comfort, love, and friendship. I routinely encourage adoption of a pet to my patients who struggle with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or technology. We’re also starting to see more and more research around the role that animals can play in recovery from depression and other psychiatric disorders.”

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“As veterinarians, we witness firsthand the powerful bond between people and their animals, and the positive impact pets can have on their emotional well-being,” said AVMA President Rena Carlson, D.V.M. “From offering companionship and unconditional love to reducing stress and anxiety, pets can be invaluable sources of comfort and support. These survey results further reinforce the importance of responsible pet ownership and the critical role pets play in our lives.”

Those surveyed indicated that pets also:

  • Provide a calming presence (62%)
  • Help reduce stress and anxiety (62%)
  • Encourage them to be physically active (35%)
  • Add structure to their schedule (29%)
  • Increase social connections with others (19%)

While the mental health benefits are widespread, Americans did express some worries about their furry, feathered, or scaly companions. Among their top concerns:  76% were concerned about a pet aging or passing away, 67% reported worrying about their pet’s health conditions, and 67% worried about their care when traveling.

Among all survey respondents, 72% reported having pets at home—52% had dogs, 37% had cats, 7% had fish, 4% had birds, and less than 3% had turtles, chickens, horses, snakes, lizards, rabbits, guinea pigs, or hamsters. One in five (18%) of those with pets said one or more of their pets was certified as an emotional support animal.

Among all respondents, 44% described themselves as dog people, 15% were cat people, 30% described themselves as both, and 10% were neither. Dog (85%) and cat (86%) owners, as well as those who indicated they are owners of emotional support animals (88%) were all more likely to say their pet had a mostly positive impact on their mental health than those with other companion animals (55%).

Learn more and share all month on social media using #Paws4MentalHealth. View the toolkit here.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,900 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

About the AVMA
Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation’s leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world.

CONTACT: Erin Connors American Psychiatric Association 202-609-7113 [email protected] Michael San Filippo American Veterinary Medical Association 847-285-6687 [email protected] 

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