Obi, a Lhasa aposo who arrived at GroupM’s Willie Pang home in May 2020.
The rush for a pandemic pet during the 2020 lockdown made a big difference to their owners as long as they bought a dog, according to a study by James Cook University.
When comparing dogs to cats, the canines were in front because they have a positive impact on their humans.
The mental health benefits and well-being gains are likely due to the dogs’ behavior – they enjoy exercise, they like contact, and they show affection with enthusiasm.
In the advertising industry known for office dogs, as detailed in AdNews’ Dog of the Month magazine series, many achieved dog ownership during the depths of the 2020 pandemic, including GroupM’s Willie Pang, whose dog Obi is pictured here.
The latest study looked at people living alone during lockdown. Jessica Oliva, professor of psychology at James Cook University, led a study that looked at nearly 400 people living alone – a risk factor for depression and anxiety – in lockdown.
Researchers are beginning to understand mindfulness – the ability to focus the mind on what is happening in the present moment – and how it can help with depression, anxiety, and stress.
“We wanted to find out whether their owners’ interactions with pets are associated with greater awareness and whether this also protects them from loneliness – and a state-mandated lockdown that exacerbates social segregation was a good opportunity to investigate this,” says says , ”Dr. Oliva.
However, this latest study showed that pet interactions were not associated with higher levels of mindfulness or lower levels of loneliness; rather, there were differences between cat and dog owners.
“Simply owning a dog seemed to cushion the effects of loneliness in some ways,” she says.
“For dog owners, even more than for cat owners, the existence of a physical connection was an important aspect … the ability to touch and feel another living being in the house.”
Both dog and cat owners mentioned the importance of the pet as an excuse to speak out loud, which has been shown to improve focus and performance on cognitive tasks.
Dog owners showed increased levels of alertness and mindfulness, but contrary to expectations, cat owners were less alert than those without a cat or dog.
One possible reason is that cat owners as a group may be less observant people. These owners have shown in previous studies to have similar characteristics.
For example, cat people score significantly better on neuroticism tests than dog people, who tend to be more social and outgoing.
“The dog owners also had two issues that were unique to them: that their dogs encouraged them to take them for a walk and gave them the opportunity to interact with other people,” says Dr. Oliva.
“Both running and socializing have positive effects on mental health.”
The results suggest that the increased demand for pets during the lockdown may not add any additional benefit than walking outside or starting a conversation with neighbors.
“But the results suggest that dogs could be wonderful catalysts for these activities,” she says.
The research was published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.
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