More than half of pet owners found socialising 'easier' upon getting a four-legged friend, a study found.
The findings emerged following research into social anxiety and the impact pets can have in reducing symptoms associated the condition.
The Mars Petcare UK research of 2,000 adults found nine in 10 became less lonely when they became a pet owner.
And two thirds said they had experienced a new sense of purpose in life since getting a cat or dog.
The OnePoll research also found one in five adults are now 'more comfortable' interacting with people online than they are with face-to-face meetings.
A third admitted feeling nervous when meeting people face-to-face for the first time.
And nearly half experience pangs of worry at the mere thought of going out – with their own friends.
Corinne Sweet, humanistic psychotherapist and author, said: “Building a relationship with a pet is a major step towards breaking down feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety."
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