Owning a pet makes you feel less lonely, study finds

Nine in 10 people say they felt less lonely after welcoming a pet into their lives.

And two thirds of the 2,000 adults surveyed by OnePoll for Mars Petcare UK said they had experienced a new sense of purpose in life since getting a cat or dog.

The pet food maker's study focused on social anxiety and the impact pets can have in reducing symptoms associated the condition -- including low self-esteem, panic attacks and avoiding social activities.

One in five respondents said that they are 'more comfortable' interacting with people online than in person. A third admitted feeling nervous when meeting people face-to-face for the first time, and nearly half experience feelings of worry at the mere thought of going out with their own friends.

But the research suggests that pets can help people reconnect with others and decrease feelings of loneliness.

More than half of pet owners (54%) said they found socialising 'easier' upon getting a pet. As a consequence, nine in 10 reported feeling less lonely and two thirds felt a new sense of purpose in life.

What's more, almost 50% said their feelings of loneliness started to fade within days of getting a cat or dog.

Corinne Sweet, humanistic psychotherapist and author, said: "Building a relationship with a pet is a major step towards breaking down feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety. People confide in their pets, calm down by stroking and grooming them, and get exercise by taking them for walks -- even a trip to the vet is a way of getting out and meeting new people.

"Pets can welcome you home, give you physical and emotional contact, and make you feel important. They can help with heartbreak, illness and separation, and be a family 'hub' when times are tough.

"On an 'evolutionary psychological' level humans have always interacted and co-existed with animals, so it is a symbiotic relationship with deep emotional roots."

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