More than thousands of years ago, dogs were the first animals domesticated by humans. Ever since then, they coined the term “man’s best friend.” They play many roles in our lives, and a new study suggests that having a four-legged friend improves the quality of life.
In a study participated in by 2,004 adults, 31 percent felt less lonely when they went on walks with their pets. Additionally, people with disabilities also benefit greatly from four-legged companions. 52 percent of dog owners with disabilities have formed deeper, longer-lasting friendships with others they met while out walking their dogs.
This comes as no surprise as a study conducted before regarding dog-owner relationships showed that having even minimal contact with dogs stimulates the human brain to release oxytocin. Oxytocin is commonly known as the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical,” and plays a role in social activities.
The study was commissioned by MORE THAN Insurance and UK charity Dogs for Good and was done simultaneously with regards to UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which is focusing on loneliness. They have partnered with TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and her border terrier, Angus to emphasize the importance of dogs in reducing loneliness.
“My dog has been instrumental in improving my mental health and just taking Angus out for a walk is great exercise, it helps me mentally and it means I meet lots of people on our walks. I didn’t know many people when I first moved from Scotland but taking Angus out was the best way to make friends in my new home. Dogs truly are such a valuable part of so many of our lives, and the work of Dogs for Good clearly makes a huge difference to many people with disabilities,” says Lorraine.
Peter Gorbing, CEO of Dogs for Good, added, “We know how hard it can be for some people to experience social interactions regularly, particularly those with disabilities who may be more susceptible to social isolation. Dog ownership presents opportunities for social interactions that have long-term positive benefits on the lives of owners – both physically and mentally. Our work is focused on assisting disabled people to live more independently at home, enabling them to play an active role in their wider community if they wish. Creating opportunities for greater social interaction is an important part of that process —and what better way to do that than by having a four-legged companion by your side.”