How pets impact on depression and the suicide rate

Posted on 2020-10-01 12:41:11

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Many surveys have indicated that animal owners feel that having a pet has had a positive effect on their health, and not only for practical reasons like companionship or taking a dog for regular walks.

There is something very special about the love an animal offers, especially a dog, since the relationship between dogs and humans goes back about 100,000 years. Dogs are able to show empathy and seem to know when supportive comfort is required.

The two-sided relationship between dogs and humans grew over millennia and had advantages for both species. Colin Groves of the Australian National University in California sees our success as a species as being at least partly owing to our early relationship with dogs. Dogs warned of the approach of danger, were trackers in the hunt, ate up edible garbage, and acted as children’s guardians and playmates, as recorded in rock paintings. Humans domesticated dogs, but to some extent dogs probably also helped to domesticate humans.

Even now, pets alter our behaviour. How many times have you heard: “I’ve got to get home to my dog!”? Feeling responsible for our animals adds a vital component to our lives. Depression can arise out of a feeling of isolation and disconnectedness, but if one has an animal at home, its very dependence on us is an incentive.

Energy therapies have helped us to realise the healing power of loving touch. Cortisol is reduced and the immune system optimised. Oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, increases. Touch and stroking are also important in developing a relationship with an animal and raising one’s own spirits in the process.

Dogs offer a soothing presence and unconditional love and acceptance. Many people have claimed that the love of their dogs has kept them from suicide when they have felt in despair. Studies confirm this, although a couple of studies claim that it makes no difference. Studies depend on the questions asked and the observations made, but statistics are surprising. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. In 2017, there were 47,173 accepted suicides in that country. There were 37,133 deaths in motor accidents and 17,284 homicides.

We have to conclude that suicide is a serious factor in modern life, and that there is much evidence for the benefits of having a loving animal to cherish.



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