Depression is the most common illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults, or over 18% of the population every year. There are different types of treatments, but did you know our four-legged furry friends can help too? Your brain needs serotonin to create feelings of well-being and happiness, and being around dogs releases serotonin into your body.
Humans and dogs build an instant connection. When looking into evolutionary behavior of both creatures, researchers have found parallels that may explain why pups can be so necessary to our mental health. Dogs and people both share a pack mentality – they both instinctively want to live within a family unit. Dog owners consider their dog to be part of their family just as much as their human relatives.
Research shows that when we pet a dog, our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and oxytocin (the “feel good” hormone) increases. Dogs need daily exercise, which means humans are getting a good work out too. Exercise lowers blood pressure and increases endorphins that fight depression and anxiety. Dogs make people feel needed because they’re completely dependent on you. They need you to feed them and walk them, and that makes people suffering depression feel important and meaningful.
It can be hard for people to admit they’re struggling, but dogs are attuned to human emotion and can sense when you’re having problems. Not only do dogs provide the positive support you need, but they do so without judgement and stigma.
Author byline: Written by Greer Grenley, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.