For the first time, the General Social Survey included questions relating to pet ownership in their most recent census, The Washington Post reports. The results went beyond quantifying the country’s pet population—almost 60% of households have at least one—as they also allowed researchers to examine correlations between pet ownership and a variety of other factors.
And happiness is one of the most interesting ones.
Between pet owners and non-owners, there is little difference in levels of reported happiness, according to the survey. There is no statistical significance between the two groups on the probability of identifying as “very happy” (nearly a third of respondents) or “not too happy” (approximately a seventh of respondents).
But within pet owners, there’s a staggering difference in happiness levels. Dog owners are almost two times more likely to say they’re very happy than cat owners, and people that own both pets fall somewhere in the middle.
The happiness divide is pretty significant—it’s wider than the gap between individuals who identify as middle and upper class, and almost as wide as people who identify as having “fair” instead of “good or excellent” health.
While some studies have yielded mixed results on the topic for a variety of reasons, such as unclear survey design, others have supported the hypothesis that dog ownership is correlated with higher happiness than cat ownership.
A 2016 study of dog and cat owners, for instance, showed that dog owners had higher happiness ratings than cat owners. The researchers concluded that the difference was at least partially affected by differences in owner personality. Dog owners tended to be more extroverted and likeable than cat owners, who were more neurotic.