Study Shows Adopting a Pet Could Help with Depression Symptoms

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Whichever way you look at it, it seems that having a four-legged companion by your side makes everything a little bit better. Whether it’s comforting you when you’re going through a ruff patch or putting a smile on your face with their goofy antics, pets have a knack for improving their owner’s life. Apparently, their beneficial influence extends to our mental health, as well.

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research indicates that one of the effects of pet ownership could be that it relieves symptoms of severe depression. The paper reveals that adopting a pet enhanced the effect of antidepressant drugs for people affected by a type of depression usually has a very low rate of remission. Two researchers from Portugal had 80 participants with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, 33 of which agreed to adopt a pet. Twenty patients picked out a dog, and seven adopted a cat.

Over a course of 12 weeks, their depression symptoms were carefully evaluated. Each of the patients in the study was rated on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. By the end of the period, over a third of participants had significantly improved symptoms- to the point they could be considered mild. As a conclusion, the team of scientists recommends doctors encourage patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder consider a pet as an “adjuvant” to their therapy.

Although this is a small-scale study which leaves room for further research, it seems entirely plausible that adopting a pet contributes to better mental health. After all, having in mind that dogs and cats can improve their owner’s heart health, reduce obesity, and help them live longer… Why would it be far fetched to think that pet ownership could help people fighting depression cope better with their symptoms?