Nepenthe avatar

• Sample size of 170, which even the researchers admitted was low

• First study done during the lockdowns, which they posited may have had a negative affect as people tried to cope with financial stress, sudden social isolation, and caring for a pet without ever leaving the house. It did, they found.

• Second study taken post-lockdown, unable to compare depression and anxiety as they did not bother measuring those the first time (why not?)

• Trained animals do provide a benefit, actually; friendly obedience and a relaxed personality found in support animals suggested to be a factor but they never measured that either I guess.

• 95% report greater life consistency and a sense of love, so maybe pets are helpful for someone in vital need of emotional support, we don't know.

Overall, I think if they tried really, really hard, and I mean really put their minds to it, they could write a worse headline for such an ambiguous and unhelpful article.

addie, avatar

I’d consider a sample size of 170 to be pretty large, if the sample was drawn with perfect randomness from the population. But this one wasn’t, it was self-selected. Also wasn’t a clinical trial, and while they seem to know what they’re doing with setting up the questionnaire, I would assume it would result in larger measurement error, which would need more samples to be able to correct for.

Completely agree with you though - the conclusions that it seems reasonable to draw from this are ‘not much, really’. Seems to disagree with the results of a larger study by many of the same authors, too, which say that companion animals did result in a smaller decline in mental health during lockdown.…

exohuman, avatar

I have bipolar disorder and 2 dogs and a human family too.

Here are the problems I see: people with severe mental health disorders can be pretty poor pet owners. Severe depression can mean laying in bed but dogs need to get outside to pee and poop and exercise. If the owner isn’t focused enough or doesn’t have help, the animal can end up neglected and the environment can end up dirty.

In the case of bipolar disorder, it doesn’t matter what the animal does or doesn’t do. The disorder is like an internal injury: it doesn’t go away or lessen based on external stimuli. When the episodes happen they just happen. We can fight it and get therapy and stuff but the injury is still there. I could be as rich as Elon Musk and my manic and depressive episodes will still happen.

That said, I love my pets and even though I have a whole family, I am the one that takes them out, gives them medicine, buys their food (but my kid feeds them most days), and they depend on me more than anyone else.


Yeah… I’m not getting my info from a shoesmith.

birdcat, avatar

Yay, that means my depression, anxiety and loneliness is not severe 🥳


This is anecdotal, but I've loved animals my entire life. I was going to be a vet, but changed careers because my internship made me afraid it would ruin my love of animals.

I've had a very rough twenty years. I was married to a man who turned out was abusive to animals, so I gave up my dream of having pets. When I bucked my entire culture to divorce him, I fought my way back to enough financial security to own them again.

My first pet was 5 when I got him. I had three years of his endless health problems, but I loved him and he died. Then I got a couple of puppies and I love them, but...I don't think I'll own any more dogs. Dealing with other pet owners has been a nightmare. Off leash, poorly trained, outright dangerous dogs everywhere.

But even more to the point, I'm a terrible owner for them. I'm allergic, so I only play with them before my shower. And my mental health has me barely able to function some days. And I'll never be able to own the property they need to truly flourish. They deserve better than me. So I agree. Poor mental health can be exacerbated by pet ownership.


How about cats? As a rule they tend to bean easier pet and happier to be purely indoors if you live somewhere that isn’t safe to let them out/have a catio. I find having cats help my mental health.

Sorry to hear you were with someone who abused animals though, that’s awful.


I love cats, but I'm even more wildly allergic to them. I not allergic to horses and to sheep, and that's about it. But it takes more than a wish to own either of those.


My condolences. Perhaps a reptile or a rodent then, some are friendly and like to chill but are not for everyone.

LostCause, (edited )

Growing up we had a dog and my mother got a lot out of it, mainly cause she made me deal with the shit (literally) parts, while she enjoyed the affection and fun playing time. The barking was a nightmare too and I was not equipped as a teenager to train a dog.
So I naturally ended up strongly biased against pet ownership.

Now if someone has a lot of fun doing all that and the right knowledge, knock yourself out, but I‘m glad if there is more of a nuanced discussion and warning about the downsides too.

Namely that getting a pet, or a kid for that matter, isn‘t a fix for mental health issues. It‘s a lot of responsibility, which I‘m sure can be rewarding too, but some research or training should happen before at least.


It’s good that you know this about yourself. So many people, that should not have pets, or (I agree with you) children, for that matter get them and then neglect them.

For me, the shit (literally) is worth putting up with for the rest of the enjoyment my cats bring me. I also have mental health issues (plenty, and sometimes severe), and if for no other reason, they help me by forcing me to get out of bed every day. I have to get up and feed/care for them. Which in turn makes me take care of myself, since I’m “already up, so I can do xyz too”.


I understand where you’re coming from and as a kid that sucks to be responsible for someone who is supposed to be caring for you.

Anecdotally, when I had mild depression I found the responsibility of a dog really helped me. It got me on daily walks and a schedule that helped me mentally. The cuddle part is nice but the responsibility is what I think really helped pull me out of a slump.

It’s not for everyone and certainly not if you don’t like dogs. Also actually severe mental issues need meds. The dog can’t fix what is truly wrong in those cases.

Nepenthe avatar

I'm really glad it helped. It's a fairly big coin toss, to choose such a needy animal, and it's the biggest reason I refuse to own one. I'm a lot better around them now than I was as a kid and it would force me outside, but I don't think I could handle that kind of energy every day, multiple times a day, and no dog deserves the level of neglect it might turn into.


no shit, leave animals the fuck alone.

TonyTonyChopper, avatar




TonyTonyChopper, avatar

Source? Do you have a source to back that up?



we’re doing old memes still right?

TonyTonyChopper, avatar

no clue what you’re talking about

fearout avatar

Have you even opened the link? It’s in the freaking title, the study is about the impact on mentally ill people, and whether having a pet helps (apparently it doesn’t, but the sample size is quite small, so idk). Nothing to do with how animals are treated.


I did. Pet don’t help leave them the fuck alone :)


@stappern @fearout You have issues.


Yeah I don’t want animal to be abused , wow what an issue…


@stappern Issues.


Please explain how it’s an issue being against animal abuse. I’m all ears


@stappern The fact that it's completely unrelated to what was posted. Get some help. You clearly need it.

"Have you even opened the link? It’s in the freaking title, the study is about the impact on mentally ill people, and whether having a pet helps (apparently it doesn’t, but the sample size is quite small, so idk). Nothing to do with how animals are treated."

Funny how you ignored what was said to you. Almost like you're a fucking lunatic.


Ok so you are just a troll, I hope you find the help you need.

smfx, avatar

A study of 170 people?!? That seems a little low as an n count to be drawing such sweeping conclusions from.


We surveyed 45 people about whether the earth was flat, 25 said yes, that’s over half!!!


What does “severe” mean? I know that without my cat (may he rest in peace) I wouldn’t be alive today. Now I have something else to live for, he’s never forgotten

numbscroll avatar

severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or psychosis.

Nepenthe avatar

In the sense of expecting a dog to make you less bipolar somehow, I think that would be laughable.

Speaking from an angle of chronic, usually severe depression along with transient psychosis, etc., I'm willing to back up that having a pet helps me greatly. If I don't get out of bed, the cat won't eat. She refuses.

So I have to get up, and I have to continue looking after her because no matter how sick of this shit I ever get, she's never done anything to deserve my abandonment. She's a bright point where I'd otherwise have no real argument for this.

Can also confirm her constant bullshit is a calming distraction when something knocks me off balance, which does do a little bit to keep me from spiraling into what could turn into stressed-induced psychosis if I let it develop into a feedback loop. On the rare occasions it does still degrade, she's still there in the same way nobody else is.

Honestly, it's a testament to her breed, and I'm probably stuck only adopting Maine coons forever now just because they're known to be so compassionate and needy that I don't have a quiet moment left to sit and make myself worse.

It likely doesn't help with some, but even the term "severe" is sufficiently diverse enough and the research pool small and ill-documented enough that I think they're overstating their findings here before they've sufficiently finished the work.


It was hard enough to find even this many people to support their bs theory.


170 is a fairly substantial sample size, but it does pose challenges with data interpretation when there’s no intervention and the expected effect size is small.

Life sciences often uses much smaller sample sizes, but with intervention.

At the absolute minimum, the headline here should be “found no evidence of” rather than “do not”. The good old absence of evidence vs. evidence of absence thing.

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