Pets have a powerful impact in our lives—especially on our mental health. We surveyed 1,500 people to learn how ESAs are affecting mental health.
Emotional Support Animals

Survey: The Impact of ESAs on Mental Health in America

Alisha Eskay, Customer Service
7 minute read
May 2, 2022

Those who have ever owned a pet of any type can attest that animals can truly be our best friends and impact our lives significantly. One of the benefits of having a pet or spending significant time with animals is improving mental health.

To get a better idea of how much pets affect mental health, Pettable surveyed 1,500 people about their mental health and how their pets have impacted it.

ESA Owners by Gender

Seventy-three percent of respondents own a pet. Of those with pets, 32% had their pet certified as an emotional support animal (ESA). Men are more than twice as likely to have a certified ESA as women, with 71% of ESA owners being male and 29% being female.

ESA Owners by Gender

ESA Effectiveness Ratings

We asked ESA owners to rate how effective their pet is when it comes to improving their mental health. A rating of one signified that their ESA is not effective for them at all, and ten meant that their ESA is extremely effective. Seventy-three percent gave their ESA an effectiveness rating of eight or higher, meaning the vast majority claim their ESA is very effective at improving mental health.

ESA Effectiveness Ratings

Why Don’t More People Have ESAs If They’re So Effective?

With ESA owners saying their pets are so effective, why don’t more people have their pets certified? 70% of pet owners said they either don’t know how to get their pet certified as an ESA or they assume they don’t qualify for an ESA. The remaining 30% simply don’t want a certified ESA.

Why Don’t More People Have ESAs If They’re So Effective

There are easy ways for people to get ESA certification letters, and you can find out if you qualify for one by taking our ESA letter quiz online.

When Did People Get Their ESAs?

Some people experience life events that push them to get an ESA. One such event that may have motivated people to get an ESA was the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many people experienced a decline in their mental health. Only 34% of ESA owners got theirs before the pandemic (March 2020), with the remaining 66% getting a certified ESA after the pandemic started.

When People Got Their ESAs

ESAs Improving Mental Health During COVID

As previously noted, the vast majority of people say their ESAs are effective in improving their mental health, and this was particularly true during the stress-filled pandemic. We compared the responses of those who had ESAs during the pandemic with those that didn’t.

Those with ESAs during the pandemic were more than three times as likely to see an improvement in their mental health. Sixty-two percent of those with ESAs reported an improvement in mental health during the pandemic, and only 19% of those without an ESA said their mental health improved during the pandemic.

Mental Health During 2020: ESA vs. No ESA

Furthermore, those who didn’t have an ESA during the pandemic were nearly twice as likely to experience a decline in their mental health. Forty-one percent of people without an ESA reported their mental health worsened during the pandemic, versus only 21% of ESA owners reporting the same.

Methodology

We surveyed 1,500 people in the United States about their mental health and ESAs over the last two years. We asked them if they owned a pet, had a certified ESA, and questions relating to how their pet or ESA impacts their mental health.

Here’s a breakdown of the respondents:

Age:

18–24 years: 15%

25–34 years: 24%

35–44 years: 31%

45–54 years: 13%

55+ years: 17%

Gender:

Female: 53%

Male: 47%

Meet the author:

Alisha Eskay, Customer Service