89% of Owners Surveyed Believe Pets Help Improve Mental Health During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Health News & Top Stories


SINGAPORE – In August last year, amid the gloom and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic, senior legal counsel Adeline Chung and her husband welcomed a little bundle of joy into their lives – an energetic Irish corgi named Whiskey.

Since then, the dog has changed not only the couple’s life, but the lives of Ms. Chung’s parents as well.

“He brought incredible life and joy to the family. My parents are young again … I never saw my dad smile like he does when he plays with Whiskey,” said the 37-year-old. with a smile.

Ms. Chung is not the only one who has such feelings. In a survey conducted here by multinational animal health company Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Singapore, 89% of those surveyed said their pets had a positive impact on their mental well-being during the pandemic.

The survey was conducted among 1,018 owners of cats and dogs from October 8 to 27 of this year. Respondents were largely, but not 100 percent, representative of the population here.

Dr Armin Wiesler, regional director general of Boehringer Ingelheim and head of animal health for Southeast Asia and South Korea, said: “With the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even more evident that The lives of animals and humans are intertwined and in complex ways, where pets have been shown to play an important role in supporting humans physically, mentally and emotionally. “

Gleneagles Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng told The Straits Times that before the pandemic, small-scale studies had already suggested that animal-assisted therapy may reduce anxiety and improve the quality of health. lives of some, including the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. mental illnesses.

While the pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of many people in multiple ways, Dr Lim said there are plenty of ways pets can improve mental health as well.

First, pets can help relieve loneliness, especially in those who have no other companion.

Second, some people may think that having a pet gives their life meaning.

Third, pets can distract from the suffering they are facing, shifting it to the responsibility of caring for another being.

Fourth, studies have shown that tactile stimulation – such as petting a dog – and interactions with pets can reduce stress hormones and improve the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

Fifth, owners must also often walk their dogs or perform activities with them, which helps promote exercise.

Finally, Dr Lim added, “It is much easier to establish a relationship (with) pets than with a human, where there can be fears of judgment and rejection.

The owner of the animal, Cheng Limin, agreed. The 37-year-old revenue manager, who owns a mini daschund named Chorizo, said, “Humans are great, but they ask you a lot of questions that you’re not ready to answer. But a pet really gives you that unconditional support. “

Ms Cheng returned to Singapore from Australia in April 2020, just as the country had just entered its breaker period.

“It was a pretty tough time … having (Chorizo) with me was very heartwarming – dogs are very sensitive to your moods, and she was always with me whenever I needed to treat anything,” said Ms. Cheng, who lives alone.

She and Ms. Chung said their pets helped them become more outgoing, as they had to leave the house to take them for a walk.

“But for whiskey, we would spend a lot more time on Netflix,” joked Ms Chung, who added that her dog also added structure to her busy life, causing her to eat at more regular times and take breaks to take care of him.

About a third of those surveyed acquired their pets during and after the breaker. ST earlier reported an increase in the number of people here interested in adopting or fostering pets during the pandemic.

Dr Kenneth Tong, chief veterinarian and founder of the Animal and Avian Veterinary Clinic, said that with children spending more time at home during the pandemic, some parents may decide to have a pet because they think that their children will have more time for this, or to keep them distracted.

But he cautioned, “Don’t buy a pet on a whim. A pet is for life.”

And while he fully agreed that pets can have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of their owners, he stressed that having a pet shouldn’t be seen as a “quick fix.” .

“The pandemic will be short-lived… The animal is for life,” he said, adding that potential pet owners should think long term.

Those who have a pet should first learn more about the animal, including its species and lifespan, and consider the time and space they have available to care for it.

And as Covid-19 becomes rampant and pandemic pet owners begin to return to the office, some may worry about spending less time with their pets.

But Dr Tong said most animals will be able to adjust to this if the transition is done gradually, and the quality of time spent with them is more important than the quantity.

“If you go home and spend 10-20 minutes with your pet, sometimes it will be a lot better than spending 10 hours at home but in front of your computer all the time,” he said.

Corrective note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct period of investigation by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Singapore.


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