In conjunction with National Love Your Pet Day today, Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute have released a report that illustrates how human-animal interaction can serve as a solution to the adverse health impacts of loneliness and social isolation.
“There is no better time to bring this important research to the forefront than National Love Your Pet Day, a day in which we pause to acknowledge the special relationship people have with their pets,” said Dr. Angela Hughes, senior manager of global scientific advocacy relations at Mars Petcare. “This is a timely opportunity to highlight our partnership with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute in which we are raising awareness about the research, driving best practices and advancing solutions that will enable more people to enjoy the physical, mental and emotional benefits of pets.”
“National Love Your Pet Day is a great time for pet owners to show their companions the love and affection they deserve,” added Steven Feldman, HABRI’s executive director. “It also serves as an opportunity to highlight the positive impact that pets can have on our health and well-being.”
There is a lot to digest in “Addressing the Social Isolation & Loneliness Epidemic with the Power of Companion Animals,” a report by the Consortium on Social Isolation and Companion Animals. It stems from the 2019 Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals, which brought together experts in pet and human health, human-animal interaction and more, says Dr. Hughes.
Among the study’s results:
- Loneliness is a major risk factor for depression
- Isolation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Only 53% of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis
However, pets/companion animals may play a role in addressing these and other issues, according to the report, which counts Banfield Pet Hospital and the American Veterinary Medical Association as contributing organizations. For example, pet owners say they have made friends through their companion animals, and pet owners are less likely to be obese.
“There is increasing evidence that pets can play an important role in helping people feel less lonely and more socially connected,” said Feldman. “Together with the leadership of Mars Petcare and a group of other experts and stakeholders, HABRI will work to address the crisis of loneliness in our society with the power of the human-animal bond.”
“We have a responsibility to take the scientific exploration further when evidence to date shows us that pets can be part of addressing such a significant societal issue,” said Rena Crumplen, Mars Petcare’s global vice president of research and development. “In many ways, we’re validating what pet owners have known intuitively for thousands of years: Pets make us better. We’re committed to fostering research that will enable more people to enjoy the many physical, mental and emotional benefits that pets give us.”
According to the report, HABRI and Mars Petcare will work over the next five years to achieve the following goals:
- Advance High-Quality, Human-Animal Interaction Research: Advance human-animal interaction research to glean a better understanding for whom and under what circumstances interactions with companion animals may be effective for alleviating social isolation and loneliness.
- Share and Support the Proliferation of Best Practices: Support and help advance best practices in HAI and for companion animal ownership that help prevent, reduce and mitigate social isolation and loneliness. Ensure animal-assisted interventions in approved settings are grounded in science, meet high standards of animal welfare and have the broadest societal impact.
- Help to Address Barriers and Provide Solutions: Identify ways to remove barriers to access for pet ownership and human-animal interaction for those who may face hurdles and stand to benefit most.