Psychological burden: owning an animal, a burden?

Pets can pose a heavy psychological burden during a pandemic, a study has found.

According to popular belief, owning a pet improves psychological well-being. It is for this reason that many people suffering from depression or anxiety are “prescribed” to have a pet. However, a new study conducted by Catherine Amiot, professor of psychology at UQAM, seems to prove the opposite. Of the 2,500 Canadians surveyed, the majority viewed their pets as a “burden” during the pandemic.

“Pet owners reported lower psychological well-being compared to non-owners on a majority of indicators, such as vitality, loneliness and life satisfaction,” said explained the researcher in a study published by the journal Scientific Reports.

According to this same study, the dog would be the only animal to be an exception to the rule. Owning a dog, considered man’s “best friend”, does have mental health benefits. “This result could be explained by the ability of dogs to encourage physical exercise and outdoor activities and socialization among their owners, within the limits allowed during the pandemic,” said the professor of psychology.

For her, it is important to demystify this popular belief that adopting a pet can solve all ills.

“[Remonter le moral] should not be the primary motivating factor in the decision to take in an animal. It is a commitment that goes beyond what the animal can bring us. We must also think about the well-being of the animal”, underlined Catherine Amiot.

“Owning a pet is a unique experience for each individual, influenced by a host of factors,” she recalled.

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