I am an animal lover who has two dogs at my home away from State College. I miss my two dogs very much as I’m sure many of you miss your pets when you leave for school. I would take my dogs to school with me if I could, but sadly I cannot. My dogs always cheer me up whenever I am having a bad day, which is great while I am at home but not so great when I am 3 hours away from them at Penn State. This observation lead me to believe that there may be a positive correlation between owning a pet and increased happiness.
Psychology Today conducted three different studies which focused on the positive effects having a pet can do for someone. In one study 56 dog owners reported that their dog fulfilled social needs more than other people did. Social needs include but are not limited to a sense of belonging, control and self-esteem. It was also found that these 56 dog owners were happier and healthier than non-owners meaning that the owners were overall less-depressed, have greater self-esteem, are less lonely and less stressed. In another study which involved 217 community members, “pet owners were more physically fit, more conscientious, were more socially outgoing and had healthier relationship styles than people who did not own pets” (McConnell, 2011). While these two studies point to a positive effect between owning a pet and overall health and happiness, they are not experiments conducted in a controlled environment. The third experiment conducted by Psychology today was conducted in a controlled environment however, a laboratory. For this controlled experiment 97 pet owners were made to either feel socially accepted or socially rejected. Those who were socially rejected either wrote about their pet, write about their best friend, or draw a map of campus (control). Those in the control group, who drew a map, reported that they felt worse after being socially rejected. The control group demonstrates that the social rejection that was manipulated was successful. The same social rejection techniques were applied to other two groups of people as well and the other two groups were equally as happy even though one group wrote about their dog and one group wrote about their best (human) friend. This shows that people can find happiness from their dogs as much as people find happiness from their best friends. This is a correlation that equates with dogs giving people happiness.
While these three studies point to evidence that dogs increase people’s happiness I wanted to find another source in order to have more than one site as my source of information about this topic. According to Humana.com a study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that owning a pet leads to lower stress and depression levels. In another study sponsored by the National Health Institute which followed 2,500 adults from ages 71 to 82 years old. The study found that those who owned dogs had higher stamina, walked faster and for longer periods of time, and were more mobile within their own homes. This study did not directly track the amount of happiness that these people received from their pets but I believe that the factors that this study did track can also correlate with happiness. I believe that the people who own dogs are happier than those who don’t because they are more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. This means they are less likely to be sick and/ or practically stuck in their homes because it is too hard for them to move for an extended period of time. This last part is purely speculation on my part but I do believe that owning a pet increases a person’s happiness and quality of life.
Psychology Today Source – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-self/201107/friends-benefits-pets-make-us-happier-healthier
Humana Source – https://www.humana.com/learning-center/health-and-wellbeing/mental-health/pets