New research by researchers at the University of York in the UK suggests that having a pet at home allowed subjects to go through coronavirus lockdown in better mental health, with a lower level of loneliness. Interestingly, research shows that the type of animal does not matter, because it can be a dog as well as a guinea pig. Nearly 6,000 people from the UK took part in the tests, 90% of whom declared having at least one pet, thanks to which it was possible to determine the importance of animals for our mental health.
'We also found in this study that the strength of our emotional connection with an animal is statistically no different between species, which means that, on average, we are just as attached to a dog as to a guinea pig, suggests lead researcher Elena Ratschen. Although animals such as horses, dogs, and cats initially scored higher on the Companion Animals Scale (CCA) comfort scale, these differences were no longer significant when adjusted for other factors. According to the researchers, this is a really important discovery that adds meaning to the so-called the social buffer hypothesis. This suggests that the presence of any animal in a social group is more important than the characteristic features of a given species, so in our case, i.e. for mental health in the context of a lockdown, a dog, a horse or a lizard will work just as well.
- We technologi assume that the relationship between a dog and a man has some special status which, in terms of its health effects, is above the relationship between humans and other animals. However, the new perspective suggests that it may be more about the dog's ability to adapt to different situations or sensitivity to human emotional cues, thanks to which we use them extensively to assist a person, rather than an interpersonal relationship, the researchers add. Of course, they do not immediately recommend that everyone rush to the stores to buy a companion, because although their research is statistically significant, the effects may not be clinically significant.
While our research shows that dog ownership can mitigate some of the detrimental psychological effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, it's important to understand that this is not a suggestion that people buy animals to protect their mental health, Ratschen explains. The primary objective of the research was to study the human-animal relationship and the susceptibility of mental health, the subjects had not previously suffered from any problems of this nature, and they had already owned animals of their own free will. Equally important, having a pet raised concerns during the lockdown that veterinary care would be available when needed, so as always, the stick has two ends.