Three studies have demanded evidence that pets can benefit owners both psychologically and physically by serving as an important source of social support. The first study looked at well-being differences between pet owners and nonowners in a large community. Pet owners were found to do better in several well-being measures (eg, self-esteem, exercise/fitness level, loneliness) and individual-difference measures (eg, more conscientious, more extroverted, less fearful, less preoccupied). The second study evaluated dog owners’ social needs fulfillment from people and their dogs. Individual pet personality was also evaluated ( The study found that the well-being benefits of pet owners were more pronounced when dogs filled social needs more effectively, and that the support provided by pets complements human sources. In the third study, the ability of pets to stave off negativity caused by social rejection was experimentally demonstrated.

Strike another chord for One Health Initiative. Fido and Kitty are as important to owners as are siblings and parents. Those relationships can provide a protective mechanism, as pet owners are both physically and emotionally healthier than their non–pet-owning peers. The veterinary profession should note the importance conveyed by the very nature of the human–animal bond. The implications these findings should have on how veterinarians support clients or market services are significant.—Kathleen Ruby, PhD (Counseling Psychology)

Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. McConnell AR, Brown CM, Shoda TM, et al. J PERS SOC PSYCHOL 101:1239-1252, 2011.

This capsule is part of the One Health Initiative