by Steven Feldman
anxiety stress and the pet effect

Looking for relief from anxiety, depression or stress? If you live in one of the 80 million U.S. households with a pet, you may be able to find help right at home in the form of a wet nose or a wagging tail. You can call it the pet effect.

Any pet owner will tell you that living with a pet comes with many benefits, including constant companionship, love and affection. It’s also no surprise that 98% of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family. Not only are people happier in the presence of animals, they’re also healthier. In a survey of pet owners, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership.

The field of human-animal bond research is dedicated to studying the health benefits of pets and human-animal interaction. Positive human-animal interaction is related to the changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain. Science demonstrates that these biological responses have measurable clinical effects.

Specifically, pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions. A 2016 study explored the role of pets in the social networks of people managing a long-term mental health problem and found that pets provide a sense of security and routine that provided emotional and social support. Studies have also shown that pets are facilitators of getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks.

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) is working hard to increase our knowledge of the health benefits of pets. Over the past four years, HABRI has funded approximately $2 million in research projects all aimed at exploring the health benefits of human-animal interaction in three broad categories; child health and development, healthy aging, and mental health and wellness. HABRI Central, HABRI’s online database, houses, classifies and archives research and information on the science of the human-animal bond, and is home to more than 28,000 resources.

As the field of research grows, HABRI continues to raise awareness of the health benefits of pet ownership and animal-assisted intervention. HABRI is proud to be partnering with ADAA and other important organizations to share information and resources on this topic. Major institutions in human medicine including Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard Medical School, UCLA Heath and the Mayo Clinic are increasingly recognizing the benefits of pets to human health. This acknowledgement shows that efforts to build and share scientific research on the human-animal bond are also making a difference for our health.

While getting a pet, seeking pet therapy, or finding ways to spend more time with your companion animal are great ways to support mental health, this information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. HABRI wants people to be healthy by including pets in their lives, safely and responsibly.

I encourage all of you to learn more about HABRI and the pet effect. Together, we can all experience the healing power of the human-animal bond.

Posted November, 2018

steven feldman.pngSteven Feldman is executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). HABRI is working to establish, through science and advocacy, the vital role of companion animals in the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. To learn more about HABRI, visit

I think this is fantastic! I'm a behavioral nurse and I talk to people every day with dogs and cats and there is no doubt that they make such a difference in not only their mood but their activity .. Often times their pets are what keeps them going, helps calm them down or just helps them feel that they're not alone. I would love the opportunity to get more involved in this area of raising awareness. So much to learn about these fur-babies take us to our happy place!

Dogs can sense depression, and many of them can respond in a loving way to their humans in order to cheer them up. When you kiss your dog, you may notice signs that indicate they know that the kiss is a gesture of affection.

Nathalie Argueles

November 22, 2019

You should make this post like into a definitive guide or something. I bet a lot of your new readers that come to this site would want to be able to find this post. It's too good to keep secret!

Research is great, but if the patient cannot afford healthcare for the pet, then we've just added another layer of stress to someone already stressed. I have not been able to find financial help for a friend who struggles to provide food and healthcare for her dogs on her limited income. Do any of you know of any assistance programs to help with this?

The first solution would be to narrow down the dog"s" to a dog. I suffer from anxiety and depression and my dog is a lifesaver. The thought of adding additional dogs seems to defeat the purpose as you've so perfectly illustrated... I'm not meaning to be unkind, just attempting to be realistic about what might help your friend. I hope everything works out well for them.

Hi I am creating free online magazine called Furry Medicine where I share inspiring stories and research on the healing power of pets. Would it be possible to include this article in the mag? I can copy and paste it into the mag and also link back to your website page here. (I'm not sure the internal links will remain however.) Thanks for letting me know!
Lisa - just getting started!

Poetry has so many benefits for kids. It is not only a great medium for rendering information
but children also find poems very delightful. Poetry recitation and memorising is a fun activity that you can
engage your kid in. Let’s take a look at some famous, funny and rhyming poems for kids. Along with that, we shall
discuss how you can select a poem and teach your kid to recite it.