To discover how happy the average person is in each OECD country, we found a combination of selfies on each country’s Google image results and geotagged photos tagged with the #selfie hashtag on Instagram.
Running these through the AI facial recognition tool generated an average happiness score for each country. Then compare this score with the score generated by searching for photos of owners of dogs, cats, and rabbits. The analysis revealed:
- In Belgium, pet owners are 172.8% happier than the average person – that’s more than any other country in our analysis.
- Canada is second, where pet owners are 158% happier than the average Canadian.
- Owning a pet can make people an average of 22.7% happier globally.
- The average global happiness score is 36.8%, and the average pet owner’s happiness is 59.3%.
The benefits of having a pet
Petplan has listed a list of the top physical and psychological benefits of having a pet. Of course, you shouldn’t rush into getting a pet if it won’t suit your lifestyle. You should always seriously consider the time, money, and commitment involved in getting a pet before you begin your search for a furry friend.
You’ll get fitter and healthier
Whether taking your dog for a daily walk, playing with your cat, or running after a rabbit, having a pet naturally requires you to become more active, most dogs, for example, will need one or two moderate walks a day, with exercise requirements varying depending on the breed of the dog, its age, and its health.
Walking is not only necessary to keep your dog physically healthy and mentally stimulated, but it will also help you meet your daily exercise requirements. Dog owners are also more likely to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels than non-dog owners. Research suggests that being around animals can also help build a stronger immune system.
You’ll meet new people
Getting a pet can widen your friendship circle if you find it hard to meet new people. Owning a dog, for example, offers lots of opportunities to connect with other people, from meeting other dog owners on walks, mingling at puppy training classes, or simply stopping to chat with friendly admirers of your pooch. Socialising with other dogs and humans increases your dog’s happiness and confidence and is key to a puppy’s healthy development.
One of the most obvious benefits of having a pet is the companionship they offer. A 2019 study found that the top reason people get pets is their company and that nearly 9 in 10 people see their pets as part of the family. Particularly for people that live alone and the elderly, it’s the companionship of a pet that can make all the difference to mental and physical well-being.
Having evolved for millennia alongside us, dogs, in particular, thrive on human companionship, with the dog-human bond proving similar to how human children bond with their parents.
Your mental health may improve
You don’t even need to take your pet for a walk to feel the physical and mental health benefits of having a pet. We’ve all felt the urge to cuddle a particularly fluffy dog – and it turns out that just stroking your pet is enough to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that helps you bond with your pet.
Cuddling with your pet is comforting for them, as well. Lapdogs, for example, are so-named because of their love of cuddling up on a nice, warm lap.
Do keep in mind your pet’s personality, though – some animals aren’t comfortable with being cuddled and stroked too much or at all. Consider an animal’s temperament before committing if you’re a cuddler and in the market for a new furry friend.
It builds a routine
Part of having a pet is having a solid routine built around tasks like feeding, trips to the toilet, walking, or cleaning out cages, hutches, and litter boxes. Not only are routines helpful for people with autism, stress, or anxiety, but pets thrive on routine and will feel more relaxed knowing when to expect food, walks, and toilet breaks.
You can find a new hobby
Getting a pet can open up a new world of hobbies that will make both of you feel accomplished, bonded, and more confident. If you have a dog (or even rats), you can teach them new tricks and show them off to your friends and family. Tricks help instil confidence and obedience in your pet while improving their cognitive skills and memory.
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