It's well known that therapy animals can have positive effects on people, but there's been little research into how daily interaction with animals affects humans. According to a recent study in Applied Developmental Science, researchers found that young adults who had strong attachments to their pets tended to be more involved with their communities and to exhibit stronger social connections to their friends and families. Science Daily reports:
The more actively they participated in the pet's care, the higher the contribution scores. The study also found that high levels of attachment to an animal in late adolescence and young adulthood were positively associated with feeling connected with other people, having empathy and feeling confident.
According to Megan Mueller, the author of the study, there needs to be more research to understand how the relationship between young adults and their pets develops over time. Right now, the positive correlation is not sufficient to determine that caring for pets is what causes some to be more socially connected, "contributing" people. "But," Mueller said, "it is a promising starting point to better understanding the role of animals in our lives, especially when we are young."