Research has already shown that pets can improve the quality of life for people who are aging or those who are chronically ill. But researchers at Ohio State University recently found that many college students may also benefit from owning a cat or a dog.
A survey of students and other adults found that nearly a quarter of college students surveyed believed their pets helped them get through difficult times in life. Students who chose to live with at least one dog, one cat, or a combination of the two were less likely to report feeling lonely and depressed; something they directly attributed to their beloved pet. These findings highlight how even younger, healthier young adults can benefit from living with our four-legged friends, said Sara Staats, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State’s Newark Campus.
"We might not think of college students as being lonely, but a lot of freshman and sophomores are in an early transition from living at home to living in dorms or off-campus. College is a very stressful environment for them and sometimes they can feel isolated or overwhelmed with the change. We found that a lot of young adults are choosing to have an animal companion for important reasons. Many feel their pets will help get them through these difficult and stressful situations, and many more say that without their pet, they would feel lonely," she said.
The results showed that avoiding loneliness was the top reason given by both students and adults. Nearly identical percentages of married and single persons gave this response, but students and those over 50 years of age were far more likely to list this as their top reason. Nearly a quarter of all college students and adults reported that their pet was useful in keeping them active. This answer was more common for those who owned dogs, but those who had feline friends also reported their cat helped keep them active.
"Many students said that their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives. The pets are not a substitute for human social interaction and support, but they do provide important interaction for these kids who might otherwise feel isolated from their current environment," Staats said.
"I wouldn’t advise everyone to go out and buy a puppy. But I think this research clearly shows that many students can benefit both psychologically and socially from living with an animal companion."