A new study has revealed that in the battle of the furry pets, dogs reign when it comes to protecting their owners against loneliness during lockdowns.
Research has shown increased depression and anxiety, particularly in females during the CCP virus pandemic. Mental health clinicians have stressed the importance of social connection, especially as half of Australia enters lockdowns this month.
In a survey of 384 people living alone in lockdown, spearheaded by James Cook University psychology lecturer Jessica Oliva, researchers found that dog owners had two advantages.
“Their dogs encouraged them to take them for a walk and offered them an opportunity to socialise with other people,” Oliva said in a media statement. “Both walking and socialising are positive in terms of mental health.”
Oliva said that simply owning a dog also appears to buffer the effects of loneliness in some way.
Cats are nocturnal animals and enjoy playing at night when you are most likely snoring gently.
“For dog owners more so than cat owners, an important aspect of this was the existence of a physical connection—being able to touch and feel another living creature in the house,” Oliva said.
Both cat and dog owners found that pets gave them an excuse to talk out loud, which appeared to alleviate loneliness and improve the performance of tasks.
“Dog owners demonstrated enhanced awareness and mindfulness resulting from interacting with their dogs,” Oliva said.
Contrary to expectations, cat owners were found to be less mindful than non-owners.
However, this may be due to the different personality traits of the owners. For instance, ‘cat people’ have been shown to score significantly higher on neuroticism than ‘dog people’.
She suggested that going outside for a walk or spending some time interacting with the community, such as chatting with one’s neighbours, is equally effective at alleviating loneliness as getting a pet.
“But the results do suggest, however, that dogs might be wonderful catalysts for these activities,” Oliva said.
The study was published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry.