A Forbes Insider Survey found that 78% of pet owners acquired pets during the pandemic and according to Mental Health America, the number of people looking online for help with their mental health increased significantly from 2019-2021. In 2021, over 5.4 million people took a mental health screen, representing a nearly 500% increase over the number of people who completed a screening in 2019 and a 103% increase over 2020.
People screening at risk for mental health conditions are struggling most with loneliness or isolation. Among individuals who screened positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition in 2021, 63% reported that one of the top three things contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation.
Every pet owner knows there are many benefits to having a one, from getting themselves out for exercise by walking their dog to receiving loyal companionship from their dog or cat. However, for some people with mental or emotional conditions, in general, but also exacerbated by the loneliness and isolation caused by the pandemic, the presence of a pet is critical to their ability to function normally on a daily basis. The pet provides emotional support and comfort that helps them deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. These pets are known as emotional support animals (ESAs).
ESAs provide support through companionship and can help ease anxiety, depression, and certain phobias. ESA users do not receive the same accommodations as service dog users, however.
Although all cats and dogs offer an emotional connection with their owner, according to the American Kennel Club, to be legally considered an emotional support ESA, the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient.
Did the stats in this post surprise you at all? Does your pet help you with anxiety or depression?