LONDON — It’s no secret people love their pets, but are pet owners really happier than the average person? Thanks to all the photos pet owners take with their furry friends, a new study finds the answer is yes!

In a global analysis using artificial intelligence, researchers with Petplan have found that pet owners worldwide are significantly happier than their pet-free neighbors. In fact, pet ownership increases overall happiness by more than 22 percent globally.

That smile says everything!

A team from the pet insurance company used Microsoft Azure’s AI facial recognition tool to examine more than 250,000 pet owner selfies on Instagram and Google Images during this study. That allowed them to quantify how much happier having a pet companion makes people, regardless of what country they’re in.

Specifically, researchers looked at photos from dog, cat, and rabbit owners in every OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country. Researchers found each photo by searching for the #selfie hashtag, as well as pet-related tags such as #rabbitowner and #dogowner. Microsoft Azure’s Face API tool then detected levels of emotions in clear photos with faces — scoring each emotion on a scale of 0 to 100.

From that giant pool, the program examined 9,000 images, generating scores for detectable emotions ranging from happiness to fear and disgust. In comparison to the average happiness score of 36.8 percent, the study finds the average happiness score among pet owners is 59.3 percent.

happiest pet owners

It’s hard not to smile in Belgium and New Zealand!

While owning a pet appears to bring people more happiness no matter where they live, the study finds the happiest pet owners in the world live in New Zealand. The AI tool found pet owners had an average happiness score of 88.4. Pet owners in Brazil (83.8) and Hungary (81.6) round out the top three. The United States did make the list, but finished in 14th, with pet owners having an average happiness score of 70.7.

As for how much a furry friend boosts someone’s happiness over the average person, nowhere does pet ownership lift our spirits more than in Belgium. The average pet owner there is a staggering 172.8 percent happier than the average person! Pets make people 158 percent happier in Canada and over 150 percent happier in China. Again, the U.S. finished 14th, but caring for a pet still nearly doubles someone’s happiness — raising it 87.3 percent above the average person.

Interestingly, Brazil is home to the happiest dog owners (average score of 94.2), New Zealand residents get the biggest boost from cats (89.4), and people in the Netherlands are the happiest to have rabbits (78.7).

Overall, rabbit owners actually post the highest number of positive social media posts regarding their four-legged companions (71.4%), following by dog owners (67.9%) and cat owners (64.7%).

happiest pet owners

What do pets bring into our lives?

The Petplan researchers note that pet ownership does a lot to improve a person’s well-being. The team says pet owners often get fitter and healthier, especially dog owners who take their pets for regular walks. This also allows pet owners to meet new people and have the companionship of their furry friend as well.

The team adds that pet owners may even see their mental health improve, their daily routines become more organized, and they might also pick up some new hobbies.

Of course, adopting a pet is a serious commitment. Researchers say anyone thinking of bringing home a pet should consider the time, money, and attention they’ll need to devote to their new friend.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Tom says:

    I have had dogs and cats both and they were all sweethearts. All they want is to be loved and they return that in spades ! I’m much older now , so it’s strictly cats because I don’t want to croak and have a dog left on its own. I have 8 domestic cats and ironically 8 feral cats we had fixed. We had more but ferals tend to disappear due to illness or predators. They all are well taken care of in and outside. They all have their own goofy personality. I enjoy them more then some people I had the misfortune of coming in contact with. Cat are predators and can take care of themselves, but dogs may do ok , but their scavengers and generally don’t fair as well. Just my 2 cents. Regards ????

  2. Jim1937 says:

    It took a study to figure this out?

  3. Robert says:

    Why did you people delete my post??? Do you not know there is a very expensive cat breed called Maine C oon cat? I separated the word’s letters. Its legit. Google it….
    I had a feeling that would not fly. You silly people…… get a life. 😉

    My name is Randy Robert l Rush. I go by Robert.

    1. LibMenIsAnOxyMoron says:

      Unfortunate the woke/though police buy off on the crumbling “Liberal World Order” BS

    2. Bonnadee says:

      The same weakness with technology caused two of my posts to be deleted over the very same reason that you experienced. It shows that technology is many times not all it’s cracked up to be.

  4. Robert says:

    When I was younger I raised German Shepherds. I love the breed but I’m a lot older now and don’t have the energy it takes to raise and train them. If you see an ill mannered dog….don’t blame the dog….blame the ill mannered owner.
    Today I have a 24 lb cat. He’s lazy, happy and enjoys the sunshine….. much like his owner. Don’t worry he can handle that weight. He is a Maine Coon. 😉

  5. Long Johnsen says:

    New Zealand? Of course their happier having a pet, their horsey-faced dictator locked them down hard and tight. If you lived in NZ you didn’t get to see a stranger’s face for 3 effing years, but you got to see the faces of their pets.