Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Dec;101(6):1239-52. doi: 10.1037/a0024506. Epub 2011 Jul 4.


Social support is critical for psychological and physical well-being, reflecting the centrality of belongingness in our lives. Human interactions often provide people with considerable social support, but can pets also fulfill one's social needs? Although there is correlational evidence that pets may help individuals facing significant life stressors, little is known about the well-being benefits of pets for everyday people. Study 1 found in a community sample that pet owners fared better on several well-being (e.g., greater self-esteem, more exercise) and individual-difference (e.g., greater conscientiousness, less fearful attachment) measures. Study 2 assessed a different community sample and found that owners enjoyed better well-being when their pets fulfilled social needs better, and the support that pets provided complemented rather than competed with human sources. Finally, Study 3 brought pet owners into the laboratory and experimentally demonstrated the ability of pets to stave off negativity caused by social rejection. In summary, pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Conscience
  • Dogs
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Pets / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult