Another day, another study on the benefits of companion animals. This one was reported in the Washington Post (a rarity these days, when most of the news coming out of Washington is not so great!).  A team of psychologists from Miami University and St. Louis University surveyed ordinary pet guardians to find out just what kinds of social and psychologic benefits pets bring. Since other work has shown that pets are beneficial to people with serious health challenges, the team wanted to know if pets were as good for ordinary people.

A survey done as part of the project assessed depression, loneliness, self-esteem, illness, health, fitness and exercise, and “happiness.” The researchers discovered many differences between people with and without pets. According to the Post, “Pet owners tended to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, get more exercise, be more extroverted and were less fearful about getting close to other people.” The results showed that “Everyday pet owners experience better well-being than nonowners.”

Other parts of the study focused more on dogs…but the study’s authors do get bonus points for the best title of the year:

Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. McConnell AR, Brown CM, Shoda TM, Stayton LE, Martin CE. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Jul 4.

According to the researchers, “Pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.”