Benefits and Downsides of Companion Animals in Mental Health

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Homes for Pets - Doggie Dash” by Homes For Pets is licensed under CC BY 2.0Helen Louise Brooks BSc, MRes, PhD
Psychology of Healthcare Research Group
Department of Psychological Sciences,
Institute of Psychology, Health and Society
University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: It is increasingly being acknowledged that companion animals can have a positive impact on mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to how pets might benefit people living with mental health problems.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our systematic review of the literature identified 17 studies that explored the role of pets for people living with mental health problems. Whilst the quantitative data was mixed, qualitative data demonstrated the depth of connection that people felt with their  animals and the different ways in which pets could support people living with mental health conditions particularly during times of crisis. The review also identified the negative aspects of pet ownership which included the practical, financial and emotional burdens of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet could have.

Despite these identified benefits the review revealed that companion animals were not incorporated into healthcare discussions or care planning activities. In some cases, people were actively discouraged from keeping pets by health professionals or experienced negative attitudes from health professionals because they had a pet.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The findings suggest that health services and policy makers should acknowledge people’s relationships with their companion animals and actively consider such relationships when planning and delivering mental health care.

Further rigorous research is required to test the relationship between pet ownership and mental health. Such studies should include outcomes that cover the range of roles that pets may have in relation to mental health identified within this review. 

Citations:

The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence
Helen Louise Brooks Rushton,Karina Lovell,Penny Bee,Lauren Walker,Laura Grant and Anne Rogers
BMC Psychiatry Published: 5 February 2018

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2

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