Over 60 percent of Americans have a pet— 77 million dogs, 93 million cats and countless other lovable critters create the $45 billion dollar industry annually. That’s a lot of dough, but the love of an animal is priceless according to a new three-part study that was just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
We’ve all heard the expression “man’s best friend,” but this new research has shown the relationship is actually more like man’s best sibling. In the trials conducted by psychologists from Miami University and St. Louis University, pets were found to be viewed as family and they “benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support.” They can provide the unconditional love equal to that of a brother, even though it’s a brother from another, furrier mother.
But family is the just the beginning. The psychologists discovered pet owners had greater self-esteem, exercised more, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, and were more extroverted than non-owners.
While the love of any kind of animal will provide a lot of positivity in an owner’s life, the number one pet that can work its happiness magic on you, as seen by this new study, is a dog. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has looked into an adorable furry face and instantly given in to the demanded belly rub.
Not all pooches, or pets in general, are created equal. In the study, the more fulfillment a person got from their pet, the better off the owner was— well, with one exception.
Warning: “Owners who anthropomorphized their pets reported more depressed affect and tended to be less happy.” So, the people who think their pet is capable of emotions like jealousy, sympathy, embarrassment and thoughtfulness are not getting the same positive effects from pet ownership. Sorry but when your dog poops on the carpet he or she is not doing it to "get back at you" for something.
However, the team of psychologists found that, in general, a pet does not interfere with a person’s ability to foster relationships with other people. In fact, on the contrary, the researchers confirmed, “These data indicate that pet closeness and support did not reflect human distancing and lack of support. Instead, closeness of one’s pet and support from one’s pet mirrored others’ closeness and support.” A pet can really open a person up to not only more relationships, but deeper, more meaningful connections.
And there you have it folks, now it’s clinically proven: Fur balls really spread the warm fuzzies!
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