This may be the key to staying sane during the next lockdown.

This may be the key to staying sane during the next lockdown.
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We have all been faced with a litany of stressful and unexpected issues this year. COVID-19 ended the lives of almost everyone in March, and things got more and more bizarre as the year went on.

Between lockdown orders, getting used to social distancing and wearing masks, and the constant cycle of new coronavirus “waves”, it’s safe to say that no one predicted that 2020 would be as complex as this.

There is no way around it. Life is more complicated these days. As such, millions of people around the world feel more stressed, anxious, and lonely than ever. Sometimes, however, comfort can be found in difficult situations from the simplest of sources.

A new study which has just been conducted in the UK has discovered a simple and refreshing way for many people to maintain a sense of well-being throughout this tumultuous year: turn to their pets for companionship and comfort.

Researchers from the University of York and the University of Lincoln found that living with a pet while in confinement reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness, reduced psychological stress and anxiety, and promoted better health general mentality among the British this year.

It might seem childish, even foolish, to turn to a dog or cat for mental support during these times, but anyone who has ever had a pet can attest to how heartwarming they can be. We could all use an extra pair of ears to let off steam, and our beloved furry companions are always more than happy to listen to you.

About 6,000 UK residents completed a survey on their experiences during the UK’s first lockdown (March 32 to June 1) for this study. The vast majority of these people had at least one pet.

Their responses indicate to an overwhelming majority that their pets have been a valuable ‘mental buffer’ against lockdown and the stress of COVID-19. More than 90% of respondents said their pet helped them cope with the emotional toll of the lockdown, and 96% believe their pet helped them stay in shape during the lockdown.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of animal you are dealing with. The strength of the bond between humans and their pets didn’t seem to fluctuate much from species to species. That being said, most of the adults studied had either a dog or a cat, while others had fish or some type of small mammal (gerbil, hamster, etc.).

“The results of this study also demonstrated potential links between people’s mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: Measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher in people who reported lower scores for mental health outcomes at baseline, ”said lead author of the study, Dr. Elena Ratschen, of the Department of Health Sciences at York University, in a statement.

“We also found that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not differ statistically across animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their own. guinea pig than their dog, ”she adds.

In a clear turnaround, it appears that many pets ended up taking care of their owners during this pandemic. However, study co-author Daniel Mills, a professor in the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, also wants to remind readers that pet ownership is a two-way street. A pet will not bring more mental stability to your life if you neglect to feed it or take care of it properly.

“This work is particularly important right now because it shows how having a pet in your home can alleviate some of the psychological stress associated with foreclosure. However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet’s needs as well, because our other work shows that failure to meet them can have a detrimental effect on people and their pets, ”he comments. .

It’s also worth mentioning that not all of the participants’ responses about their pets were positive. Many pet owners surveyed (68%) said they periodically felt even more stressed during the lockdown due to pet concerns. For example, some owners were concerned that they would not be able to take their pet to a vet in an emergency.

So with that extra support and comfort that a pet provides, there is also more responsibility.

In summary, while these findings certainly indicate that a pet can help alleviate pandemic blues, the study authors warn against running to your pet store or animal shelter if you are not already an owner. of an animal. These conclusions were drawn from a sample of adults who already had a pet they had lived with for some time and with whom they had bonded. Much more research is needed before a general statement like “buy a pet, and you will feel better about foreclosure” can be made with confidence and precision.

“While our study has shown that having a pet can alleviate some of the negative psychological effects of COVID-19 lockdown, it is important to understand that this finding is unlikely to have clinical significance and does not warrant any suggestion. that people should acquire pets. to protect their mental health during the pandemic, ”concludes Dr Ratschen.

Does this mean that all non-pet owners will find no comfort in animals? Not necessarily, according to the last observation of the study. Almost 55% of respondents said they regularly engage in bird watching during the lockdown to help calm their nerves.

The full study can be found here, published in PLOS ONE.

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