HealthDay News — Pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions, according to a review published online in BMC Psychiatry.

Helen Louise Brooks, PhD, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature search to identify studies exploring the role of companion animals in the management of mental health conditions.

Based on qualitative assessment of 17 studies, the researchers found that the benefits of pet ownership were mixed; included studies demonstrated positive, negative, and neutral impacts of pet ownership.

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Positive findings highlighted the intensiveness of connectivity and the multifaceted ways in which pets help people manage a mental health condition, especially in times of crisis. However, the negative aspects of pet ownership included the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact of losing a pet.

“Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem,” the authors write.

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Brooks HL, Rushton K, Lovell K, et al. The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence.  BMC Psychiatry. 2018; 18(1):31.