The Societal Impact of Pet Ownership

As many of you reading this can likely attest to, friendship looks much differently than it used to. Think about it. Many of us have hundreds or thousands of friends on social media, but how many of those friends do we meaningfully connect with on a regular basis? Online, we all appear hyper-connected. In real life, we’re lacking connection more than ever. In fact, since 1985, the number of confidants people have in their inner circle has shrunk by one-third.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Nearly 300 million people globally suffer from anxiety.1
  • One in five millennials in America say they are lonely and have no friends.2
  • Only around half of Americans say they have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis.3

How can we combat the harsh realities that our society is facing? What will help us trade the faux connectivity for real face time? There is a solution right in front of us – our pets.

For most people, just seeing a puppy or kitten video can warm their hearts. Pets fill us with joy, they help us connect to those around us and they are always there for us, even on the toughest days. There’s no denying it – a pet has a unique ability to improve our mental, social and physical health.

Studies have shown that pet ownership is associated with higher levels of social capital – or connection to your community. Pet ownership can help reverse us the role of social isolation and combat loneliness. Companion animals often serve as ice breakers for meeting new people and break down barriers between strangers. In fact, 40% of pet owners connect with their neighbors through pets. Our pets help us meet people, force us to venture outside and encourage us to be more open.

Personally, I’ve seen this play out in my own life with my teenage son. For those of you who have parented a teenager – you know, connecting with them isn’t always easy. However, when we take Jack on walks at night, it is easier for my son to open up and share as we walk shoulder to shoulder. This time is now a central part of our relationship and very special to me.

A more universal example of pets’ impact on health and wellbeing is the rising success of pet therapy, which offers comfort and support for people in need. Interactions with therapy dogs can increase happiness and connection while lowering stress.

Pet therapy also positively impacts physical health, as it has been proven to reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health, while releasing endorphins that produce a calming effect.

At Elanco, we believe in the power pets can have on our health and wellbeing, which is why we actively support Pet Partners, a non-profit that looks to improve human health and well-being through animal therapy programs. These programs help support a people with a variety of needs, including veterans with PTSD, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities, and those approaching end of life.

Therapy animals are just one of the ways pets can offer us comfort.

As we all continue to navigate the challenges our evolved, hyper-connected society brings, I would encourage you to make time to disconnect from your devices and rediscover the power of pets, not only through a connection with your companion animal but also with other pet owners, neighbors, even those in your own house. Despite the simplicity of this solution, an authentic connection with your four-legged friend truly has the power to make a difference.

1 Medium. Global Depression and Anxiety, https://medium.com/@blumfest/global-depression-and-anxiety-148afd856432

2 YouGov. Millennials are the loneliest generation, https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2019/07/30/loneliness-friendship-new-friends-poll-survey

3 Cigna, New Cigna Study Reveals Loneliness at Epidemic Levels in America. https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/new-cigna-study-reveals-loneliness-at-epidemic-levels-in-america

4 Science Direct, Social capital and pet ownership – A tale of four cities. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352827317300344

5 Stress & Health. Petting away pre-exam stress: The effect of therapy dog sessions on student well-being. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/smi.2804

About Julia Loew

Julia has years of experience in (leadership positions) in the animal health industry, both in her home country US and in Europe. Next to her regular job at Elanco, Julia also chairs the non-profit organization WILMAH (Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health) to promote and support the growth and development of female leadership.

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About Julia Loew

Julia has years of experience in (leadership positions) in the animal health industry, both in her home country US and in Europe. Next to her regular job at Elanco, Julia also chairs the non-profit organization WILMAH (Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health) to promote and support the growth and development of female leadership.

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