Any dog owner will tell you that dogs can improve your mental health, but how much truth is there to that?
Is it just something that dog lovers say to justify our canine-obsession? Or is there actually fact behind our claims?
Today I want to talk about 9 proven ways that dogs can improve your mental health based on current scientific research.
9 Ways That Dogs Can Improve Your Mental Health
1. Dogs Can Significantly Reduce Depression Symptoms
In 2007, Souter and Miller found that depression interventions that utilized animals significantly reduced symptoms of depression in depressed patients.
2. Dogs Can Reduce Feelings of Loneliness
3. Dogs Increase Leisurely Family Interaction
In 1996, Paul and Serpell found that families who adopted dogs engaged in more leisurely family interactions than those who did not.
4. Dogs Improve Our Interpersonal Relationships
In 2003, Na and Richang found that empty nester couples with dogs have a more stable marriage after their children leave home than those without dogs!
5. Dogs Help Us to Be More Empathic
In 2002, Hergovich found that the presence of a dog in the classroom was directly correlated to the development of empathy in children.
6. Dogs Reduce Our Levels of Stress
In 2005, Barker et al. found that interaction with a dog during a break period reduced levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in medical professionals when compared to medical professionals who simply took a break. Plus, in 2003, Odendaal and Meintjes also found that dog owners experience reduced levels of cortisol when interacting with dogs versus reading a book.
7. Dogs Reduce Anxiety
In 2002, Kaminski et al. found that hospitalized children experienced a decrease in heart rate when interacting with dogs versus those taking part in only play therapy.
8. Dog Owners Have Better Sleep
In 2008, Headey et al. found that dog owners experience better sleep when compared to non-dog owners, they also had better overall health and fitness, and they took fewer days off work!
9. Dogs Help Us Cope with Social Stressors
In 2003, Odendaal and Meintjes found that interaction with our own dogs increases our blood level of Oxytocin. Increased blood levels of Oxytocin correlate directly to a reduction of anxiety, particularly when faced with social stressors.