THOSE with a dog have 69 per cent more ‘meaningful’ interactions – one-to-ones which boost their overall mood – a month than those without a pet.
The study of 2,004 adults also found dog owners benefit from the simple act of walking their canine chum, as 31 per cent feel less lonely when they go for a stroll with their pet.
But that’s not where the benefits of having a dog end – four-legged friends have a huge positive impact on those with disabilities too.
Dog owners with disabilities have almost four times as many meaningful conversations a month than disabled people without dogs – 11 compared to three interactions.
Also, 81 per cent of disabled dog owners attributed their social interactions and connections to their pooch.
The study was commissioned by MORE THAN Insurance and UK Charity Dogs for Good to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (9th to 15th May), which is focusing on loneliness.
The insurance provider and charity have joined forces with TV presenter, Lorraine Kelly, and her border terrier, Angus, to highlight the positive impact dogs have on curbing loneliness.
In a video, Lorraine takes viewers on her favourite dog walk, capturing the number of people who stopped, smiled and chatted to her and her beloved pooch.
Lorraine said: “My dog has been instrumental in improving my mental health and just taking Angus out for a walk is great exercise, it helps me mentally and it means I meet lots of people on our walks.
“I didn’t know many people when I first moved from Scotland but taking Angus out was the best way to make friends in my new home.
“Dogs truly are such a valuable part of so many of our lives, and the work of Dogs for Good clearly makes a huge difference to many people with disabilities.”
The study also found that 52 per cent of dog owners with disabilities have developed deeper, longer lasting friendships with someone they met when out for a walk.
While only five per cent of disabled adults who don’t own a dog have established similar relationships.
A further four in five disabled dog owners said interacting with new people helps relieve feelings of isolation and loneliness.
And 81 per cent find it easier to make new acquaintances when accompanied by their hound.
In comparison, 50 per cent of non-dog owners said they rarely interact with new people, according to the OnePoll research.
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James Loder, Director at MORE THAN insurance, said: “The physical and mental benefits of dog ownership speak for themselves.
“Dog owners have more opportunities for social interaction and our research shows we also make far more meaningful connections thanks to our four-legged friends.
“We want to shine a spotlight on our relationship with dogs.
"So that more people can benefit from this, particularly those with disabilities whose lives can be impacted even more substantially by establishing a strong relationship with dogs and fully harnessing the benefits they can bring."
“This is something Dogs for Good help with, by providing disabled people and families with assistance dogs and expert advice, and we’re proud to support them.”
Peter Gorbing, CEO of Dogs for Good, added: “We know how hard it can be for some people to experience social interactions regularly, particularly those with disabilities who may be more susceptible to social isolation.
“Dog ownership presents opportunities for social interactions that have long-term positive benefits on the lives of owners – both physically and mentally.
“Our work is focussed on assisting disabled people to live more independently at home, enabling them to play an active role in their wider community if they wish.
“Creating opportunities for greater social interaction is an important part of that process —and what better way to do that than by having a four-legged companion by your side.”
If you are a dog owner, Dogs for Good wants to hear about your own social interactions while taking your canine friend for a walk. Go to dogs for food to share yours.
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