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Article

The Effect of Pets on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19 Lockdown in Malaysia

1
Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
2
Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Putrajaya 62200, Malaysia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Aubrey H. Fine
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2689; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092689
Received: 9 July 2021 / Revised: 24 August 2021 / Accepted: 31 August 2021 / Published: 14 September 2021
Pets are an integrative part of everyday life. Understanding the impact that pets have on human mental health and wellbeing, especially during periods of prolonged social isolation, is vitally important to determine whether animals can be integrated in prevention, recovery and intervention programmes to promote mental health and wellbeing. Research, with Western samples, suggests a positive impact of pets on humans; however, there is a lack of research on the effects of human–animal interactions in Southeast Asia. The aim of this study was to address this gap and to explore whether and how pets impact mental health and wellbeing in Malaysia during the COVID-19 induced movement control order (MCO). Additionally, the study explored if there was any interaction between other demographics, like age, gender, education, and pet ownership when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. The results show that in comparisons with people without animals, pet owners had significantly higher levels of mental wellbeing, in that they felt they could cope better with adverse situations and experienced significantly more positive emotions during the lockdown. On the other hand, there were no differences in levels of depression, stress, resilience, anxiety and negative emotions between the two participant groups. These results indicate that although the information about human–animal interaction is limited in Malaysia, pets can have a positive impact on some aspects of mental health and wellbeing and be actively integrated into promoting mental health and wellbeing in situations where people are socially isolated and experiencing difficulties coping with adversities or negative emotions.
The adverse impact of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) on mental and physical health has been witnessed across the globe. Associated mental health and wellbeing issues include stress, social isolation, boredom, and anxiety. Research suggests human–animal interactions may improve the overall wellbeing of an individual. However, this has been less explored in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and the present study examined the effect of pets on the mental health and wellbeing of Malaysians during the lockdown, or movement control order (MCO), due to COVID-19 pandemic. A cross-sectional survey was carried out, with 448 Malaysian participants, who completed online assessments for psychological outcomes, psychological wellbeing, positive–negative emotions, resilience, and coping self-efficacy. Results indicate that pet owners reported significantly better coping self-efficacy, significantly more positive emotions, and better psychological wellbeing, but contrary to expectations, there was no differences on other measures. Among pet owners, cat owners reported more positive emotions and greater wellbeing than dog owners. The results show that that pets have some impact on improved psychological health of their owners and could be integrated into recovery frameworks for promoting mental health and wellbeing. View Full-Text
Keywords: pets in Malaysia; human–animal interactions; mental health and wellbeing; lockdown; COVID-19 pets in Malaysia; human–animal interactions; mental health and wellbeing; lockdown; COVID-19
MDPI and ACS Style

Grajfoner, D.; Ke, G.N.; Wong, R.M.M. The Effect of Pets on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19 Lockdown in Malaysia. Animals 2021, 11, 2689. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092689

AMA Style

Grajfoner D, Ke GN, Wong RMM. The Effect of Pets on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19 Lockdown in Malaysia. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2689. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092689

Chicago/Turabian Style

Grajfoner, Dasha, Guek N. Ke, and Rachel M.M. Wong. 2021. "The Effect of Pets on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19 Lockdown in Malaysia" Animals 11, no. 9: 2689. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092689

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