Animal companionship and risk of suicide

26 Feb 2018

It has recently been advanced that animal companionship confers protection against leading causes of death, such as cardiovascular disease, potentially via the weight control associated with the ownership of pets whose care requires physical exertion. By means of other mechanisms, there are also reasons to anticipate that pet ownership may have an impact on other important health outcomes such as suicide, another major cause of premature mortality particularly in people under 50 years of age. Thus, human–animal interaction appears to have a favourable impact on selected risk factors for suicide, including interpersonal interactions, mood, anxiety, positive attention from others, and stimulation of social behaviour. The benefits of animal contact also seem to extend to biomarkers of psychosocial stress, such as lower levels of cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. Despite this circumstantial evidence, to the best of our knowledge, there has been no prospective examination of the link, if any, between animal companionship and suicide.