Pets may cure depression, new research suggests.
Adopting a furry friend relieves symptoms in just 12 weeks among those who do not respond to treatment, such as therapy and antidepressants, a Portuguese study found.
The researchers wrote: ‘One of the reasons that could explain our results is that pets compel to counteract one of the main symptoms of depression – anhedonia.
‘Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, for example exercise, hobbies or social interactions.’
Dogs in particular may ease depression by forcing people to be physically active and encouraging them into new social situations, the scientists add.
Around seven per cent of adults in the US and three per cent in the UK suffer from depression every year.
Pets may cure depression by encouraging their owners to be active and social (stock)
COULD AN AMAZONIAN PSYCHEDELIC DRUG TREAT DEPRESSION?
An Amazonian psychedelic may treat people with drug-resistant depression, research suggested in July 2018.
Used by the indigenous people of the Amazon basis, the medication, known as ayahuasca, is a mix of the two plants Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi.
After being taken just once by people with drug-resistant forms of the condition, their symptoms significantly reduce after one week.
Yet ayahuasca comes with side effects, with half of the study’s 29 participants vomiting after taking the drug.
The researchers, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, wrote: ‘[T]he ayahuasca session was not necessarily a pleasant experience.
‘In fact, some patients reported the opposite, as the experience was accompanied by much psychological distress.’
The researchers believe their findings demonstrate ayahuasca’s efficacy but add different variations of the drug may be required to make it more tolerable.
Around seven percent of adults in the US and three percent in the UK suffer from depression every year.
Up to 30 percent of patients do not respond to existing medications.
How the research was carried out
The researchers, from the Medical-Psychiatric Clinic, Porto, analysed 33 people with depression who had not previously responded to treatment.
The participants’ previous treatment attempts lasted between nine and 15 months, and included regular therapy sessions alongside at least two courses of antidepressants.
None of the participants owned pets before the study, with 18 adopting one dog, seven looking after two pooches and the remainder taking on a cat.
For the next 12 weeks the participants continued to attend their therapy sessions, as well as taking their medication.
Depressive symptoms were assessed throughout the study by asking the participants about their moods, sex drives, sleep patterns and any suicidal thoughts.
Any change in the participants’ depressive symptoms were compared against 33 people with the mental-health condition who did not own or adopt a pet.
Adopting a pet improves depression after 12 weeks
Results suggest adopting a pet significantly improves depressed patients’ symptoms after just eight weeks.
After 12 weeks, those who have looked after an animal find their day-to-day lives are less affected by their condition.
Male and female depression sufferers respond similarly to adopting a pet.
The study’s controls, who had depression but did not adopt a furry friend, found their symptoms did not improve.
The researchers claim further studies are required to verify the trial’s findings, as well as to determine how spending time with a pet eases depression.
Seven per cent in the US and three per cent in the UK suffer from depression a year (stock)
Eating fruits and vegetables slashes a person’s depression risk by more than 10%
This comes after research released last February suggested eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains slashes people’s risk of depression by more than 10 per cent.
Following the so-called ‘DASH diet’ reduces people’s likelihood of developing the mental-health disorder by up to 11 percent, a study by Rush University, Chicago, found.
Those who eat a typical Western diet, which is rich in processed foods and sugar, are more at risk of suffering depression, the research adds.
Researchers add further studies are required to determine the association between diet and mental health, but add simple lifestyle changes may be preferred over medication to control such conditions.
Previous findings suggest eating lots of fresh produce benefits people’s mental health by improving their moods, giving them more energy and helping them to think clearly.