A new survey showed that sharing a home with a pet appeared to act as a buffer against psychological stress during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown.

The survey, which was taken between March 23 and June 1, 2020, found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reduced loneliness, with 90% of the 6000 participants from the UK saying they had at least 1 pet. In addition, 96% of the participants said their pet helped to keep them fit and active.

However, 68% of pet owners reported having been worried about their animals during the lockdown, for reasons such as restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise or not knowing who would take care of the pets if the owner became sick, according to the researchers.

“Findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people's mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher among people who reported lower scores for mental health-related outcomes at baseline,” said study author Elena Ratschen, MD, from the Department of Health Sciences University of York, in a press release.

Ratschen added that the researchers also discovered the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species.

Study co-author Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, noted that this analysis is particularly important during COVID-19 because it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can provide a buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with the lockdown.

“However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet’s needs, too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets,” Mills said in a press release.

Having pets linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness during lockdown, research shows. University of York. https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/pets-survey-lockdown-loneliness/#:~:text=The%20study%20%2D%20from%20the%20University,had%20at%20least%20one%20pet. Published September 25, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2020.