Pet owners worldwide are significantly happier than people who do not have pets, according to a new global study led by London-based pet insurance company Petplan. By using Microsoft Azure’s Artificial Intelligence facial recognition tool (Face API) to analyze over 250,000 pet owner selfies posted on Instagram and Google Images, the experts estimated that pet ownership increases overall happiness by more than 22 percent globally.
The scientists examined photos from dog, cat, and rabbit owners in every OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country, and used the Face API tool to detect levels of emotions in clear photos with faces, scoring each emotion on a scale from 0 to 100. The analysis revealed that the average happiness score among pet owners was 59.3, compared to 36.8 in people without pets.
Although owning a pet seems to bring people more happiness regardless of where they live, the researchers found that the happiest pet owners live in New Zealand (with an average happiness score of 88.4), followed by Brazil (83.8), and Hungary (81.6). Moreover, in Belgium, the average pet owner was found to be 172.8 percent happier than the average person, followed by Canada (158 percent), and China (150 percent). In the United States, pet owners had an average happiness score of 70.7, and they were 87.3 percent happier than the average person.
In terms of specific pets, Brazil is home to the happiest dog owners (average score of 94.2), while New Zealand’s residents get the biggest boost from cats (89.4), and people in Netherlands from rabbits (78.7). Surprisingly, rabbit owners all over the world publish the highest number of positive social media posts about their pet companions (71.4 percent), followed by dog owners (67.9 percent), and cat owners (64.7 percent).
According to the researchers, pet ownership significantly improves people’s well-being. Pet owners are often fitter and healthier, particularly dog owners who take their companions for regular walks. Moreover, pet owners have better mental health, more organized daily routines, and have a greater chance of picking up new hobbies.