The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association recently highlighted that a total of 3.2 million households in the UK have taken on a pet since the start of the pandemic. There has been a similar pattern in the USA, where pet business is booming and where extensive research has been conducted to explore the positive physical and mental health benefits that pets can offer.
To highlight these benefits, the American Heart Association (AHA) has brought back Best Friend Fridays for the summer. This initiative aims to celebrate the bond between pets and owners, encouraging people to post pictures or videos on social media every Friday, showing how their pet is helping them stay positive, have fun and be more active.
The AHA believes pet ownership can reduce levels of stress, help with a more positive mindset, and lessen isolation and feelings of loneliness. This is supported by research by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Mars Petcare, where 85 percent of people agreed that pets help reduce loneliness.
The AHA has also studied the physical health benefits that pets can offer. According to the AHA, dog owners are 34 percent more likely to achieve the AHA’s recommended physical activity levels than non-dog owners and are 31 percent less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
There are other studies that demonstrate the positive correlation between pets and human health. One of these, commissioned by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), shows the link between pet ownership and positive quality of life. Here, 76 percent of owners felt that their pets reduced stress levels, 65 percent said their pets improved mental health and 31 percent reported improved physical fitness.
There is no doubt that in the last 12 months there has been a heightened awareness of mental health, with many people experiencing loneliness or a sense of being cut off during the last year. Workplaces will need to consider this as they adapt working practices to the post-pandemic world.
The AHA found that 44 percent of pet owners would consider a career move for a pet-friendly workplace. Findings such as these strongly support the case for pets to be included in our working lives; their contribution to positive mental health, better productivity and closer teamwork cannot be underestimated.