Owning a Pet is Beneficial for the Mental Health of UK Workers

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Oct 3, 2019

Owning a Pet is Beneficial for the Mental Health of UK Workers

Research shows that dogs, cats and other animals can reduce the negative impact of work on our mental health

A poll of 2,000 employees has revealed that six in 10 of us are feeling tired, worried and anxious due to increasing workloads and never-ending hours. Unpleasant colleagues, difficult clients, a tough commute, and feeling pressured to rush work through are also cited as common work-related stress triggers.

But, while 59% of those suffering say their boss is “understanding” and 63% feel well supported by colleagues, friends and family, 61% of people feel their workplace could do more to support those with mental health issues. Just four in 10 believe their place of work has a mental health policy in place, or people qualified to help those with work-related stress.

The research was carried out by working animal charity SPANA ahead of World Animal Day, to highlight how pets in the UK, and working animals overseas, help improve the mental health and wellbeing of their owners.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries, said: “Stress and ill health in the working world is a very real thing, as more and more adults feel they have to deliver work at speed and under pressure.

“There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a nine-to-five job, as workers are constantly taking work home with them, or staying on in the office at all hours to try and get everything done.”

The study also found four in 10 adults have taken a day off work due to stress – and for some, worrying about company performance and the risk of losing their job can contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Others reported day-to-day stress triggers include having to deal with frustrated clients or customers, a lack of confidence in their ability, and having a horrible boss. Management style is also a sticking point – being micro-managed can lead to feelings of anxiety for 13% of adults while, on the flip side, 8% struggle without clear direction from above.

Worryingly, almost seven in 10 struggle to ‘switch off’ at the end of the working day, which is affecting workers’ overall mood and happiness. And, unfortunately, for these adults who are struggling to switch off fully at the end of the day, a staggering nine in 10 say this can affect their everyday life.

Around two-thirds of adults have had a partner or family member comment on their stress levels, and 49% report feeling embarrassed or ashamed of the way their workplace stress affects them in ‘real-life’.

However, two in three of those polled claim to have their own coping strategies in place – even if their workplace doesn’t. For some, taking regular breaks, working from home occasionally and taking sick days when needed can be a real help. Owning a pet is also shown to be beneficial in relieving workplace pressures, with 83% of workers with a pet saying that their animal helps to reduce their stress levels and improve their emotional wellbeing.


The benefit of animals for our mental health is well-documented. Amongst many other benefits, they can provide us with a sense of companionship and routine, and allow us to live in the moment. The simple act of stroking an animal releases oxytocin, a ‘happy hormone’ that floods our system and helps us relax.

But it’s not necessarily all about owning a pet. For some, equine therapy – a type of therapy putting people and horses together along with a therapist – is incredibly helpful for promoting emotional growth and learning. Used to help with a variety of mental health issues from addiction to low self-esteem, this therapy type is becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

Geoffrey Dennis of SPANA added: “Thankfully, owning a pet is proving a saving grace for many stressed-out workers in the UK. Almost half of adults have a pet and the evidence shows they can help to reduce anxiety and loneliness, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and even prevent depression.

“However, few people are aware that working animals are vital to the physical and mental health of people in the world’s poorest communities. These horses, donkeys, camels and other animals help provide millions of impoverished families with a basic income for food, transport to hospital, and other necessities for survival, such as water and firewood.

“This World Animal Day, I’m asking everyone to recognise the value and importance of every single animal, be they the ones we share our homes within Britain, or working animals overseas that support the livelihoods of over half a billion people worldwide.

If work-related stress is affecting your wellbeing, help is available. Counselling Directory can help you find a qualified therapist near you, simply enter your location in the search bar below.

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