LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — There’s a general line of recommendation between friends: If you’re lonely or blue, get yourself a new furry friend. That’s because many pet owners report that having a canine or feline companion positively impacts their well-being.
A new study by a Michigan State University professor made a finding that contradicts that popular belief–at least, as applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, focused on 767 people at three different points in time throughout May 2020, during the pandemic shutdown.
The researchers considered several indicators of well-being in the 767 people, along with asking them open-ended questions about the role of pets from their points of view. Pet owners said their pets made them feel more positive emotions, along with giving them affection and companionship.
On the other hand, pet owners also reported the less positive parts of having furry friends, like spending time worrying about their pets, or their pets’ interference with their remote work.
Surprisingly, the happiness data of the pet owners, when compared to that of pet non-owners, showed no difference in well-being over time. It didn’t matter what kind of pet they had, how many pets they had or how close of a relationship they had with their pet(s). The data also didn’t vary according to the personalities of the pet owners.
“People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it’s unlikely that it’ll be as transformative as people think,” said William Chopik, an MSU psychology professor and a co-author of the study.
One possible explanation: people who don’t have pets might instead be filling that space with plenty of other fulfilling activities. “Staking all of your hope on a pet making you feel better is probably unfair and is maybe costly given other things you could do in your life that could improve your happiness,” Chopik said.