beautiful woman with cats at home

Our Furry COVID Companions

College of DuPage Nursing Student Andrea Armenta researched for Healthy Lombard that when thinking about what makes a family, almost everyone would also consider including pets as part of a traditional family. For most of us, our furry friends have a role that is more than merely ornamental. In the early months of 2020, an increase in the number of individuals changing their schedule to accommodate a remote lifestyle has occurred. During this time, more people are also adopting loving comrades through foster care. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA, 2020) reports a nearly 70% increase in animals going to foster programs. This determines there are more people finding support and stabilization from furry friends during this time of quarantine.

Pets help to create memories that can last for a lifetime. Pets add joy to life due to their pure and calm demeanor but may also benefit overall health. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), a bond exists between pets and their owners resulting in an increased quality of life from improvements in levels of fitness, stress reduction, and a general sense of happiness in their owners. The study continues to indicate that pets help to decrease blood pressure and increase the opportunities of exercising.

Although we are at home with distractions such as work or school, there has been an increase in depressive symptoms around the world. A study was conducted by Sandro Galea, a researcher at the Boston University School of Public Health had compared the responses from survey results looking at the rate of depressive symptoms prior to and during isolation as related to the pandemic. It was reported that 27.8% of adults reported depression symptoms after the pandemic compared to 8.5% before the pandemic. The investigators surveyed adults with financial worries and those dealing with a new remote lifestyle. The study findings revealed the rate of depression doubled in this situation compared to other traumatic events and can leave long-lasting effects.

The period of isolation has significantly increased the time that we are at home. Our animals have become used to our presence, and the bond between them is stronger. This is crucial because animals may be a distraction for depressive symptoms. According to Holttum (2018), specific brain cells in an emotion-processing part of the brain react to animals but not people or objects. In fact, babies like looking at animals more than objects. When we see our pets, especially dogs, we have a sense of dedication towards them because they depend on us for their needs creating an endless cycle of dependence on one another.

The study has demonstrated the importance of animals at home and how they assist us in managing our emotions; our companions assist us with loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Holttum further explains that homeless young people are less lonely if they own a pet and the animals help them to cope. She further explains that young people in secondary school reported being less lonely if they had a pet, and the strength of attachment to the pad was linked with the number of people they felt were available to them for social support.” This demonstrates the connection between pets in general, and how they are beneficial although in many ways, inferior to us. We depend on pets subconsciously to get through the day and keep us from feeling lonely and depressed, emotions that have increased tremendously during this pandemic.

Overall animals help us in many ways even if we as owners do not directly notice it. The pandemic has been challenging, causing a constant demand for us to become more flexible with our lives. Nevertheless, our family pets have kept us going, distracting us from the solitude with their presence.

References

A Timely Match for Madeleine. (2020, March 12). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.aspca.org/news/timely-match-madeleine

About Pets & People. (2019, April 15). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

Catherine K. Ettman, B. (2020, September 02). Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770146/

Holttum, S. (2018). Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 22(2), 65-71. https://cod.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.cod.idm.oclc.org/docview/2023407447?accountid=10202

Mary Van Beusekom | News Writer | CIDRAP News  | Sep 03, 2. (2020, September 03). Depression triples in US adults amid COVID-19 stressors. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/09/depression-triples-us-adults-amid-covid-19-stressors

 

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