Editor's Forum, COVID-19, Wellness

#PetsOverCOVID19

COVID-19 has brought a lot of negatives and challenges, so I will look for and take a positive wherever I can find it. One bright note this year: Pet adoptions are on the rise as people realize the healing power of #PetsOverCOVID19.

Hard to believe that another year has flown by and ACEP Scientific Assembly 2020 is right around the corner. Scientific Assembly has often been the time to celebrate many emergency medicine advancements and achievements, as well as a time to connect with our co-residents and emergency physician friends, new and old.

To say I am going to miss seeing and connecting with people during the conference is an understatement. However, I am so genuinely grateful and thankful to be part of the organization that put together such remarkable virtual programming. Check out our website to get a full review of the schedule.

This lack of interconnectedness secondary to COVID-19 has left not only me, but a lot of people feeling disjointed. The prevalence of anxiety and depression has been on the rise since COVID-19 started to make its presence known.1 We all see the physical health concerns of COVID-19, but I fear we have neglected to appreciate the physiologic effects of the virus.

The downstream effects have been apparent. According to an analysis by Express Scripts, who serve close to 32 million commercially insured Americans, there was a 21% increase in the prescriptions filled for anti-anxiety and anti-depression mediations just between February 16, 2020, and March 16, 2020.2 However, there has also been an increase in another industry - animal adoption!

Incidentally, the number of animal adoptions in the country has increased substantially. Shelters have been cleared out and breeders are now experiencing waitlists, sometimes into the year 2021. According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, a nonprofit shelter, adoptions have been double what they were compared to last year. This is a trend reported at shelters around the country. Foster-turned-adoptions have also increased from an average of 10% to 25% across the united states. Shelters have also reported lower than average return of adopted animals.3

All of this makes sense as animal companionship has been shown to provide real benefits to those suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which have both been on the rise since COVID19 made its emergence. Human beings are, at our core, social beings with the need to experience satisfying social relationships as one of our cornerstones for physical and mental well-being. When this falls apart, loneliness sets in.4

COVID-19 has brought a lot of negatives and challenges, so I will look for and take a positive wherever I can find it. Combating depression is multifold. Reach out to friends and family, your residency administrators, and your PCP. Also, reach out to friends with pets and set up play dates in a socially distant environment if you are unable to support a pet of your own right now.

I would love to start a #PetsOverCOVID19 to help get the word out about the positive impact animals and pets have on our mental health, especially during these times of decreased social interaction. To start out, here is my picture with our dogs - Tina and Bailey. Share on social media using our hashtag to show off how your pets have positively impacted your mental health during this time of COVID19.


References

  1. Stanton R, To QG, Khalesi S, et al. Depression, anxiety and stress during COVID-19: Associations with changes in physical activity, sleep, tobacco and alcohol use in Australian adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(11):4065.
  2. Express Scripts. America's State of Mind Report. April 2020.
  3. Business Wire. National Data Collected by 24PetWatch Indicates a 36% Decrease in Pet Adoptions During COVID-19. April 30, 2020.
  4. Mushtaq R, Shoib S, Shah T, Mushtaq S. Relationship between loneliness, psychiatric disorders and physical health? A review on the psychological aspects of loneliness. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(9):WE01-WE04.

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