How Pets help Youth with Depression

When I was an adolescent, my Mom used to say she didn’t know what was worse, being a teenager or the parent of a teenager. Statistics today are showing that stress, anxiety and especially depression is happening with teens and adolescents at an alarming rate. For example:

  • 10-15% of teenagers will have depressive symptoms at some time
  • 20% of teens will experience depression before reaching adulthood
  • 30% of adolescents with depression will develop a substance abuse problem
  • Attempting suicide increases by 12% with teens who are depressed

Teens suffering from depression also perform poorly at school, have difficulty later with employment and struggle with relationships in general. Studies have shown that young people who form a bond and a relationship with a pet function much better compared to those who do not have an animal in their lives.

Size Doesn’t Matter

If you’re worried that you don’t have enough room in your home or life for a larger animal, size doesn’t really matter when it comes to this relationship with your child and family. Think of it this way, although large dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers are popular choices for families, there’s a long list of smaller canines that are just as compassionate and full of personality as their bigger cousins.

How They Help

There’s many ways that pets help adults to live happier and healthier lifestyles, whether we’re getting more exercise when walking a dog or a cat simply puts a smile on our face when they’re happy to see us coming home from work every day. It’s similar for kids, but more specific in some important ways when it comes to these X ways they touch teens and kids:

  • Unconditional Love and Support: One of the best parts of bonding with a pet is they don’t judge … ever … they’re always there to lend an ear and “paws” for support.
  • Being More Touchy-Feely: As kids grow and begin to enter adolescent, there comes a time when they’re aren’t as receptive to physical affection, especially from their parents. But who can resist a kiss from a dog or the demands of a cat that wants to cuddle.
  • Reducing Stress and Anxiety: Engaging with our animals reduces our heart rate and blood pressure, something science hasn’t been able to explain completely, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have this option available to us and our children.
  • Better Social Skills: Bonding with a pet helps kids to build better social skills even if they’re simply interacting with a pet, they’re still learning ways to understand others.

With all of these rewards, it’s difficult not to consider a pet for our kids, especially when they reach times when they must deal with growing pains and the pangs of entering into adulthood through adolescence. While many parents get children a pet to teach them lessons about the circle of life, we may be ignoring the reality that these animals also help our kids cope with everything that life can sometimes throw at them and find ways to deal with it more effectively.

In closing, please remember, there’s literally millions of pets waiting for a good home at shelters and through rescue organizations all around the country. If you’re thinking of getting a companion animal, please consider one of these options to enrich your family. When adopting an animal from one of these facilities, sometimes it’s difficult to tell exactly who is rescuing whom.

Author: Hilary Smith

Extra note: Readers might also be interested in an article that talks about the numerous health benefits of turmeric. Studies show that curcumin has an antidepressant like effect and can improve mental health.

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