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Living with and having a close bond with a companion animal does not necessarily lead to significant mental health improvements in people with a serious mental illness, say researchers.

A survey, conducted by the University of York, revealed that living with an animal – a dog, cat, fish or bird for example – did not improve wellbeing or reduce depression, anxiety or feelings of loneliness for owners with serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, compared to those who live without an animal.

The researchers, who followed up on an earlier survey conducted in 2021 on investigating aspects of animal ownership and mental health during COVID-19, say their findings counteract the increasingly held belief that animals boost mental health and wellbeing in all contexts.

In a survey of 170 UK participants with serious mental illness, 81 reported having at least one animal, and more than 95% reported that their animal provided them with companionship, a source of consistency in their life, and made them feel loved.

Dogs and cats were reported as the most frequently owned pet, consistent with the general population. The majority of participants perceived the bond with their animal to be strong.

However, compared to people with serious mental illness who did not have an animal, no statistically significant improvements in mental health and feelings of loneliness were found in the study.

A recent study suggests that contrary to popular belief, pet ownership may not necessarily provide mental health benefits for individuals with serious mental illness. The research, conducted by experts from various institutions, aimed to explore the relationship between pet ownership and mental well-being in this specific population. The findings challenge the assumption that pets universally improve mental health outcomes and urge a closer examination of individual circumstances and needs.

The study involved a diverse sample of individuals diagnosed with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Researchers assessed participants’ mental health indicators, including symptoms of mental illness, quality of life, social functioning, and subjective well-being, comparing those who owned pets to those who did not.

Surprisingly, the results did not demonstrate a significant difference in mental health outcomes between pet owners and non-pet owners within this particular group. This suggests that while pet ownership may provide emotional support and companionship for some individuals, it may not be universally beneficial for those grappling with serious mental illnesses.

While further research is needed to fully understand the complex relationship between pet ownership and mental health in this context, it is important to recognize that additional interventions and support may be required to address the unique needs of individuals with serious mental illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it is crucial to seek professional help. Reach out to at 855–339-1112 to connect with experienced professionals who can guide you or your loved ones towards the path of recovery. Remember, help is just a call away.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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