Research from The Kennel Club released ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week shows positive impact of canine companionship for owners
- Two in five credit their dog with easing feelings of loneliness, with younger generations benefitting the most from canine companionship
- Older age groups also cite mental and physical health benefits of walking their dog, with over two thirds finding their mood and wellbeing improved
- And more than a third of dog owners feel less anxious thanks to their four-legged-friend
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is exploring the impact of loneliness, with connections to other people being severely reduced over the past two years. However, this research shows that dogs provided a vital source of comfort and companionship during this time, with an overwhelming 95 per cent of owners agreeing that their dog improves their mental health, while almost a third (32 per cent) say their dog was there for them when no-one else was.
Furthermore, while experts are concerned that younger generations are most at risk of suffering from loneliness, this research shows that these age groups appear to benefit the most from dog ownership, with more than half (54 per cent) of those aged 16-24 saying that their dog helps them to feel less lonely. In fact, two in five (40 per cent) of all owners credit their dog with easing feelings of loneliness, indicating that dogs really are man’s best friend, regardless of age.
And it’s not just loneliness that dogs prove to be a tonic for, with more than a third (37 per cent) feeling less anxious thanks to their dog, and almost half (47 per cent) saying their dog makes them feel less stressed.
Pete Lewin, from Leicester, knows first-hand how beneficial dogs can be for providing comfort for those feeling isolated and lonely. Pete, a long-standing front-line paramedic for East Midlands Ambulance Service, runs a non-profit organisation providing open water swimming opportunities with his Newfoundland dogs for suicide prevention and those struggling with their mental health. Earlier this year, Pete and his four-legged team were presented with The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award at Crufts 2022 for their live-saving work helping those suffering with feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, stress and anxiety.
Speaking of the powerful ways in which his dogs have helped others, Pete said: “Dogs are great for emotional support, they give people confidence that somebody is there for them – they’re not there to judge, to criticise or condemn.
“And they really can be life-savers. There are people out there who will tell you that they are here today because of these dogs. One guy came to us after he took an overdose. Before swimming with the dogs, he was suicidal, and now he works for the ambulance service.
“Whatever it is that dogs have got, it is helping people.”
Keeping fit and active is also beneficial for mental wellbeing, and more than half of owners (58 per cent) agree walking their dog improves their mood, while two in five (42 per cent) believe staying active with their dog has had a positive impact on their mental health. In fact, over two thirds (69 per cent) of those aged 55+ agree that walking their dog improves their mood and general wellbeing.
“This research shows how much dogs enrich our lives, from providing solace and companionship during difficult and lonely times, to giving us a sense of purpose and routine,” said Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club. “This has been particularly apparent over the last two years, when many of us have experienced feelings of loneliness and stress whilst being much more isolated from friends and family than usual, but our dogs have continued to be there through it all.”
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, The Kennel Club is celebrating the positive effect that dogs can have on our mental well-being. More information and useful resources can be found by visiting The Kennel Club website.