Living with pets and mild-severe mental health difficulties: Drawing from people’s lived experiences

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Emerging evidence suggests that the human-animal bond has important psychological implications such as decreasing specific mental health symptoms, and promoting hedonic and eudemonic wellbeing1. However, pets do not ‘fix’ mental health problems, but they may play an important role in mental health self-management and in the prevention or de-escalation of specific symptoms1. Although reporting to still struggle with their mental health despite having a pet, people often report feeling that their mental health would be much worse if they did not have their pet2. Evidence into pets and mental health remains inconclusive, but this could be explained by complex individual variables that could underpin the benefits and risks of pets. These could include symptom severity, pet welfare and perceived behavioural problems, human-pet attachment type, pet type and breed, types of human-pet activities, and perceived psychological and behavioural compatibility. Moreover, few studies have considered the impact of human mental health on the welfare of the animals. For example, many people with mental health difficulties report being satisfied with the happiness and health of their pet, but for a select few, they believe that their mental health has impacted on their ability to care for, and meet their pet’s needs and expectations, increasing negative feelings such as maladaptive guilt and caregiver burden, therefore exacerbating their mental health symptoms1,2. This talk will therefore present existing evidence and emerging novel data from a series of research studies1-3, led by Roxanne and her team, that focus on people’s lived experiences of pets for mild to severe mental health difficulties. Emerging data on the impact of pets for perinatal mental health will also be presented3. This talk will explore some of the aforementioned complex and individual factors that ‘complicate the story’, thus answering the question posed, ‘are pets really good for us?’
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2023
Event2023 SCAS Conference, ‘Are pets really good for us? The role of pets in mental and physical health’ -
Duration: 17 Sept 2023 → …
https://www.scas.org.uk/home/scas-annual-conference/

Conference

Conference2023 SCAS Conference, ‘Are pets really good for us? The role of pets in mental and physical health’
Period17/09/23 → …
Internet address

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Pets and Companion Animals [LL070]
  • mental health & psychiatry
  • attachment

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