Mental Health Awareness Week – how our pets can help us

Just how important are pets for our happiness and how do they help support our overall wellbeing? 

15th May 2023

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15th – 21st of May 2023) centres around anxiety and the affects it has on our day to day lives. With most of us here at Animal Friends being pet owners, we know just how important they are for our happiness and helping support our overall wellbeing.  

And now we’ve got the numbers to prove it.

The real face of anxiety

Recent research has shown that 60% of Brits are currently struggling with their anxiety while over half of us are dealing with depression. But, thankfully, we’re not alone in our times of struggle.

In a recent survey, we asked our customers a variety of different questions about how their pet helps them. It revealed that having a pet in our home can give us a sense of purpose, which has been found to have a positive effect on wellbeing. 

On top of this, almost four in five (79%) of pet parents say that their pet has helped them cope through a life event, both big and small. And, honestly, we’re not surprised. We’ve always said that our four-legged friends are a lot more than just loyal companions, they’re part of the family, and our recent customer survey shows that.

With our pets taking on the role of listener, exercise pal and even confidant, where would we be without them?

Get it off your chest

Offloading the things that make you anxious can, at times, bring you relief. Even just knowing there’s a listening ear available can be a massive help, which is where our pets come in. 79% of owners said that they talk to their pets all the time, even depending on them to prepare for a challenging conversation!

Many participants shared how their pets don’t judge them (unless they are snoring or not sharing food) and always provide that much needed comfort. One survey participant even confessed that they talk to their dogs more than their partner!

Breathe it all in

Being active in nature can help reduce our levels of depression and anxiety. Find an outdoor activity you enjoy, no matter how small, and try to implement it regularly. Getting into a routine of regular dog walks has been shown to stabilise mental health, even after dealing with incredibly difficult challenges such as bereavement.

Why not take a look at our top dog walking spots in the UK for some inspiration?

Two’s company…

Nearly three quarters (70%) of pet owners admitted their favourite family member was the one with four legs, with a further 88% saying that their pets never make them feel judged. It seems that we can truly be ourselves in the company of our furry best friend and would often rate them above humans for company.

For some, pets can be a reason for living; providing comfort, reassurance and loyalty every step of the way. Our survey revealed a sense of “being lost” without our pets and that pet parents and their companions “love each other unconditionally.”

Whilst some pets can be quite demanding, with many owners saying they wait on their furry family member ‘hand and paw’ (we’re looking at you, cats), 92% of pet parents say that this routine gives them purpose. It even encourages them to get out of bed on those especially difficult days, even if it is from a gentle nose nudge or paw tap to fill up the food bowl.

Face your social fears

Meeting new people who share similar interests can give you an escape and an outlet to talk, and pet owners are a perfect example of this. Some survey participants shared how they have met some of their dearest friends through dog walking, describing how their pet has helped them overcome social anxiety. 

Make the most of the time you spend with your furry friends; whether it’s a 10-minute stroll in the park, offloading about your day or simply enjoying a cuddle on the sofa. No matter how little, any precious time spent with our four-legged companions can have a positive impact on our mental health.

If you are struggling with your mental health and considering welcoming a pet into your home, rescue centres across the UK are currently bursting at the seams with lonely pets waiting to be loved and to give their love in return.  Who knows, it could the start of the most beautiful, accepting relationship you will ever have...

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at some of the charities we’ve helped in the past, many who have pets waiting for someone just like you!