Most people consider their animal companions as a great source of support during the lockdown period due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of York and the University of Lincoln found that having a companion animal at home was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Out of the 6,000 participants who participated in the study, about 90 percent of them said their animal companions helped them cope emotionally with the pandemic, and 96 percent of them said their furry pals helped them be fit and active at home.

On the other hand, 68 percent of them said they were worried about the welfare of their animals due to restrictions on access to veterinary care.

“Findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people’s mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher among people who reported lower scores for mental health-related outcomes at baseline,” said lead author Dr. Elena Ratschen from the Department of Health Sciences University of York.

In the United Kingdom, more than 40 percent of households are estimated to have at least one animal companion.

“This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown. However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet’s need too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets,” added co-author Professor Daniel Mills from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.

The study, titled “Human-animal relationships and interactions during the Covid-19 lockdown phase in the UK: Investigating links with mental health and loneliness,” has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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