26th June 2020

During the pandemic many of us have been working from home, and so Bring Your Dog to Work Day might not be at the top of your mind right now.  Being in lockdown has been a lonely and difficult time for many people, especially those with mental wellbeing concerns, and a  UK study has looked into understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected adult mental health and wellbeing during lockdown: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.24.20078550v1

Over a quarter of the 600 participants said they were being treated for mental disorders, such as mood disorders in almost a fifth (18%), and neurotic disorders, stress-related conditions, and somatoform disorders - a group of psychiatric disorders that cause unexplained physical symptoms - in about 14% of the participants. According to the study, anxiety and depression scores were higher than normal, and levels of wellbeing were lower in those who felt more isolated than usual during lockdown. The association of depression and anxiety with isolation and poor social support emphasizes the need for new ways of keeping people connected and supported during times of poor social contact.

According to mentalhealth.org, pets offer companionship and can be a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. People in later life experiencing typical life stresses can be comforted by a companion pet, and people with Alzheimer's are thought to have fewer anxious outbursts. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/pets-and-mental-health

The Mental Health Foundation carried out a study with Cats Protection in 2011 which involved over 600 cat- and non-cat-owning respondents, half of whom said they currently had a mental health problem. The survey found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing, and 76% said feline company enabled them to cope much better with everyday life. Half of the cat owners felt that the presence and companionship of their cat was most helpful, and  a third of respondents described stroking a cat as a calming and helpful activity. https://www.cats.org.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases/purring-the-blues-away

However, The Dogs Trust has warned that ‘A dog is for life and not just for the Covid-19 lockdown’, after a surge in online searches about getting a puppy. It is concerned that the increased interest in owning a dog may result in more people giving up their new pets when life returns to some sort of normal.

In the month after lockdown was announced, Google searches for “buy a puppy” rose by 120%, and online searches for “adopt a puppy” saw a surge of  133% in, according to data from Propellernet. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/04/dogs-are-for-life-not-just-coronavirus-lockdown-says-charity

For those for whom owning a pet is not possible, charities such as Pets as Therapy visit thousands of people of all ages every year including those in residential homes, hospitals, hospices, schools, day care centres, and prisons. Volunteers work with their own pets, to bring joy, comfort and companionship to many individuals who appreciate being able to touch and stroke a friendly animal. https://petsastherapy.org/

So, whilst we might not be taking our pets to work this month, they can continue to provide soothing companionship and help to improve our mental wellbeing.