The Effect of Pets on Human Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19 Lockdown in Malaysia
Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
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
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.