pets mental health corona

Pandemic pets: how our fury friends can help us during the lockdown.



Pets, including dogs and cats, could be what our mental and physical health needs during the corona virus pandemic, according to one industry body.

Data collected by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) shows that 3.2m UK homes have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic with 38% claiming it felt just like having a new baby.

Studies have shown that owning pets can help reduce blood pressure, decrease anxiety and lower feelings of loneliness.

Suicide and mental health issues are a cause for concern. In 2020, there were 2,107 registered suicides in the UK between January and June. According to the Office for National Statistics, 1,597 of these suicides were committed by males.

In his recent documentary, ‘Our Silent Emergency,’ Roman Kemp explores why men and boys account for so many suicides and preventative actions that we need to be taking. “Over three quarters of men feel unable to confide in people about their problems,” said Kemp.

Fergus Crawley, a survivor of attempted suicide, spoke to Kemp about how having a dog helped him on his road to recovery. “The day after I came around from my suicide attempt, I got a message from a friend saying, ‘I’m getting a puppy from this litter next weekend – you in?’

“The day that I got him, I had a routine to fulfil,” said Crawley. “I had a reason to go outside. I had somebody to talk to. I wasn’t getting any responses but that turned out to be incredibly important. I was just saying things out loud that I hadn’t ever comprehended in my own head before that point.”

The RSPCA ‘pandemic PAW Report revealed evidence of the critical roles that pets can play in alleviating stress and helping safeguard our health and wellbeing.

The 2020 RSPCA PAW report also found that 49% of owners said that owning a pet has been ‘a lifeline’ during lockdown.

“It is essential to our survival that we connect,” said Meg Daley Olmert, author of ‘Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond’, which explores the biology that draws humans and animals together. “If pets did nothing more than reduce our background anxiety, if they just made us a little less jumpy, brought our heart rate down, our blood pressure down, and increased our social hormones like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine: that would be enough to provide a sense of well-being that would profoundly affect all areas of mental and physical health.”

Owning a pet can also encourage people to exercise more. Researchers have found that more than 82% of dog owners walk their dogs once a day or more.

Dog owner Simeon Brown said, “It’s really helped me to get out and about, get some fresh air, gets some exercise and really enjoy ownership. It is quite a sociable thing and it’s always good to stay active as well.”


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