Americans Note Overwhelming Positive Mental Health Impact of Their Pets in New Poll; Dogs and Cats Equally Beneficial
Washington, D.C. — The findings of the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Healthy Minds Monthly Poll are clear: in addition to feeling like part of the family, Americans’ furry friends offer many mental health benefits.
Among the survey respondents, half (50%) said they had dogs, 35% said they had cats, and a third (31%) said they did not have any pets at home. About 3% identified other pets including fish, birds, turtles, and more.
Among pet owners, a strong majority (86%) said their pets have a mostly positive impact on their mental health. Dog owners (87%) and cat owners (86%) were equally likely to say so, while other pet owners (62%) were less likely. A strong majority (88%) of pet owners said they consider their pets a part of their family. The poll was fielded by Morning Consult Feb. 10-12, 2023, among a sample of 2,200 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
“People recognize that there is something special about bonds between humans and their pets,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, M.D., J.D. “The animals we bring into our lives and our families play many roles from non-judgmental companions that we love to key partners in reducing our stress and anxiety. Americans clearly recognize that our relationships with our pets can have noticeable benefits for our overall mental health.”
Those who said their pets positively impact their mental health cited several key benefits, including:
- Help reduce stress and anxiety (69%).
- Provide unconditional love and support (69%)
- Offer companionship (69%).
- Provide a calming presence (66%).
- Are true friends (63%).
Cat owners were more likely than dog owners to say their pets offer companionship, provide a calming presence and help reduce stress and anxiety. Dog owners were twice as likely as cat owners to say their pet encourages them to be physically active.
When asked how much they worried about various stressors related to pets, pet owners were most worried about their pets aging or passing away (71%) and their pets’ health conditions (66%). Over half also worried about arrangements while traveling (56%) and healthcare related expenses (58%).
Non-pet-owners said that they were most likely not to own one because they couldn’t afford it (29%) or that they did not have time to take care of a pet (22%). About 11% were mourning a deceased pet.
“The benefits of pet ownership to many Americans seem to outweigh the stressors,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “If pets are not an option for your family, but you are seeking that connection, there are many opportunities to volunteer with animals that may also benefit your life.”
APA invites you to share the word and pictures of your pets this month on social media with the hashtag #Paws4MentalHealth. Learn more.
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.