(Family Features)--Pet ownership can have a positive effect on people, including those who may be struggling with mental health. From minimizing loneliness and stress to aiding in social situations, pets can truly go above and beyond for their human companions.
"Millions of people are affected by mental health disorders across the U.S., so when a doctor recommends a life with a pet, he or she is truly writing a prescription for a happier, healthier life," says Jam Stewart, vice president of Corporate Affairs at Mars Petcare.
Consider these mental health benefits that pet ownership can bring, according to the WALTHAM™ Centre for Pet Nutrition.
1. Combat loneliness. Loneliness can take many forms, whether it's caused by increasingly demanding careers or the heightened impact of social media, and surveys suggest that for those who are able, getting a pet can help. More than half of pet owners said getting a pet gave them a new sense of purpose. Preparing to tackle the day ahead can be easier with your furry friend at your side.
2. Make larger social circles. Pets can help create social bonds between people. Pet owners tend to make more friends in their communities than non-pet owners, because pets increase friendliness, helpfulness and trust. Whether it's on a walk around the block or in an active dog park, furry friends are often up for meeting someone new, which provides a way to break down social barriers and increase your circle of pet-loving friends.
3. Help with stress management. It's been shown that people with pets may be better able to deal with stress. Not only do pets provide greater self-esteem, enhanced social skills and an increased sense of empathy, pets can be beneficial in a wide range of therapeutic and institutional settings in animal-assisted therapy.
4. Feel safer. Not only do people who walk their dogs get more physical activity on average than their non-dog walker counterparts, they also feel safer in their neighborhoods. Bringing your fur pal on a walk is akin to the "buddy system" and can help you feel more secure in your surroundings.
5. Learn valuable lessons. Taking care of dogs and cats prepares people for increased responsibilities as they get older. From childhood through adulthood, pets can provide life lessons like the importance of respecting boundaries and enjoying life's big and small moments.
Source: WALTHAM™ Centre for Pet Nutrition, BETTER CITIES FOR PETS