In the U.K., mental health disorders affect a significant portion of the population, with 1 in 4 individuals experiencing such challenges every year. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health disorders. This reality highlights the pressing need for awareness, support, and empathy towards mental health problems and the people who experience them.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event to raise awareness about mental health problems, their causes, and their effects. This year, Mental Health Awareness Week falls from Monday, May 13th, to Sunday, May 19th. Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, leading pet insurer petGuard sheds light on the mental and physical health benefits of owning a pet.

“There are many great benefits to owning a pet, which have a positive impact on our mental and physical well-being,” says James Whitten, Marketing Manager at petGuard.

Around 3 in 5 UK households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular. As a nation of pet lovers, many households don’t fully appreciate all the physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership.

Pets can lower people’s stress levels

Whenever people develop stress or anxiety, their brain may release adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone), which can be detrimental to their heart and mental health if they persist for a prolonged period of time. Pets not only make their owners laugh and giggle but, more importantly, contribute to the release of oxytocin, a “cuddle hormone” that reverses the effects of cortisol and leaves a person feeling stress-free.

Pets are a great therapy

Pet therapy is steadily growing in popularity throughout the UK. Children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and autism, are encouraged to interact with therapy animals in controlled environments. These interactions have been shown to help create positive and calm environments for children, which overall increase their levels of concentration, memory retention, and academic improvement.

Pet therapy can provide children as well as adults, with an emotional connection that some may find hard to establish with other humans. By petting an animal, not only can it soothe an individual, but it can also create an emotional experience that may not have been there before.

Pets can warn people of danger

A dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times stronger than human’s and they’ve been working with people for so long that they know exactly when to sniff out danger. It’s exactly because of their caring nature that so many dogs have specialist jobs. Medical conditions that dogs have been trained to sniff out include cancer, malaria, and epilepsy.

People who suffer from epilepsy and other health issues release an odour that differs very slightly from that of a healthy human. Dogs can detect this change in scent and alert their owners ahead of a seizure.

“It is important to choose a pet most suitable for your lifestyle and circumstances,” warns Whitten.


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