EAST LANSING (WWJ) - While it's commonly thought that close companionship with a pet positively influences our well-being, a new study by Michigan State University said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, that wasn't the case.
Even though pet owners said their animals improved their lives, the results of the study -- published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin -- showed no difference in the well-being of pet owners and nonpet owners over time.
“People say that pets make them happy, but when we actually measure happiness, that doesn’t appear to be the case,” said William Chopik, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Psychology and co-author of the study. “People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it’s unlikely that it’ll be as transformative as people think.”
The study conducted three assessments of 767 people in May 2020 -- during the pandemic -- before researchers took a "mix-method" approach that made it possible for them to investigate multiple indicators of well-being.
They also asked pet owners open-ended questions to gauge the role of pets in their lives from their point-of-view.
Pet owners responded positively, saying that their animals made them happy and provided companionship and affection. But at the same time, they also shared how they worried about their pet's health and if they would interfere with their remote work.
When comparing their happiness to nonpet owners, the data showed there was not a reliable association between pet ownership and well-being
Researchers discovered that it didn't matter what kind of animal someone owned, how many, or how close they were with their pet.
The personalities of the owners were not a factor in the results, either.
The researchers believed one of the reasons there isn't a difference in well-being between those who have pets and those who don't could be because nonpet owners filled their time up with other things that make them happy.
“Staking all of your hope on a pet making you feel better is probably unfair and is maybe costly given other things you could do in your life that could improve your happiness,” added Chopik.
For more on the study, click here.