Does having a pet increase happiness?

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.

Source – http://bestdogfood-review.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/happydog.jpg

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.

Source – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/e5/91/5f/e5915fbb99f92d8b8609e16820245059.jpg

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

5 thoughts on “Does having a pet increase happiness?

  1. Melissa Lee

    I enjoyed this blog post and I also believe that dogs can definitely bring happiness. Recently I have seen many fundraisers around campus involving dogs. These fundraisers consist of people coming to just sit and pet dogs and play with them. If you have ever visited one of these fundraisers you can clearly see that everyone is glowing in joy. I have also heard of dogs acting as therapy dogs in hospitals. This article from USA Today http://www.today.com/parents/therapy-dogs-bring-smiles-children-s-hospital-patients-t80316 goes into this topic. Many of these kids in the hospital are at a very low point in their life. These dogs work countless hours to make the stay of these hospital children tolerable. They bring smiles to their face and bring on a happiness that can drastically change their stay.

  2. Kate Billings

    Hi joe! I am also a dog owner and completely agree that my dog cheers me up whenever I’m having a bad day. I never thought that dog owners would actually be happier people that non dog owners. I was wrong because as you mentioned they are not only happier but more confident, less lonelier, less stressed and healthier. It makes sense to me that dog owners would be more healthy because having a dog almost forces you to become more fit because you need to walk your dogs and play outside with them. I was honestly surprised when you mentioned how a study done showed that people can find the same happiness they find from their friends in their dogs. It’s pretty amazing that dogs cannot talk to you yet they make you just as happy as people you love do. I also found that not only dogs bring you happiness. In this article, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/the-health-benefits-of-pets.htm, it mentions how also playing with cats increase your dopamine and serotonin levels. Pet owners, whether it be dogs or cats seem to clearly be better off than those without!

  3. Griffin Lambert Brooks

    Being a huge dog lover and animal lover for that matter, this post made me extremely happy and made me miss my dog back at home. Whether its been proven or not my answer is yes, owning a pet makes me happier. A pet especially a dog because I have owned one my whole life always has unconditional love for you no matter what. I have seen a saying before and it has always stuck with me that goes something like this… your dog might not be in your life forever, but you are its whole life. That has always stuck with me because its so true. A dog lives for 10-15 years usually and thats only a short period in your life, but to the dog you have been with them for every single second of their life so they are naturally attached to you and will always love you unconditionally. Dogs, especially because I’ve always owned them make you happy because they are always so excited to see you and who doesn’t like when you make someone happy when you simple walk through the door?

  4. Justin Passaro

    Joe, being a huge dog lover, I knew I had to weigh in on this post. I can relate to your situation. I also have a family dog at home that I am not allowed to have here at Penn State. Being 2 hours away, I miss my dog very much but it is always the thing I look forward to the most when I visit. There is no question that I am happier for the moments that I am around my dog. Although, I don’t know if I can say that my overall happiness since moving away has decreased. As I mentioned, I miss my dog, but I honestly can’t say that I have become depressed or less socially productive since moving away. I found this article by Renee Jacques of The Huffington Post that you might like.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/03/dog-health-benefits_n_4683351.html

  5. Gulianna E Garry

    This blog really stuck out to me since I too really miss my dog! I really loved the amount of data you gave to support that dogs do cause happiness. Not too long ago my dad and I were watching a 60 minutes about dogs and their psychological behavior. The episode focused on if dogs actually do feel emotion and love towards their owners. The scientist would give a cat scan to the dog and place a random sock and then see if the dog sparked an emotion in its brain. Later, the scientist would place their owner’s sock to see how the dogs brain would react. Sure enough the dog’s emotions in it’s brain where one would feel love were through the roof when it smelled it’s owner’s sock! Here is a little article about it!

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