Article

Attachment to Pet Dogs and Depression in Rural Older Adults

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to learn more about the relationship between pet attachment, the ability to care for a pet, and depression in older adults. One hundred and seventeen Caucasian, older, adult dog owners in rural, south-central Pennsylvania were recruited using non-random sampling methods through veterinary offices and dog grooming salons in south-central Pennsylvania, USA. They completed an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire, which was returned by mail. Half of the respondents were female, 74% were married, and 27% were employed. Attachment to pet dogs was measured by the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale. Regression analysis revealed that higher levels of pet attachment and widowhood were associated with higher levels of depression, and the ability to care for the dog and satisfaction with human relationships were associated with lower levels of depression. Higher levels of pet attachment may indicate that the pet plays a central role in the older adult's life and may substitute for human companionship.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... Some studies associate pet ownership with lower depression (in single women; Tower and Nokota 2006), less loneliness (Stanley, Conwell, Bowen, & Van Orden, 2014), and enhanced well-being (Cline, 2010), although others report increased depression in pet owners (in unmarried men; Tower and Nokota 2006). Similarly, pet attachment in older women has been both positively associated with depression (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011) and also with mediating the relationship between loneliness and depression (Krause-Parello, 2012;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). The causal factors driving the mixed results in these correlational studies are unclear. ...
... Some studies associate pet ownership with lower depression (in single women; Tower and Nokota 2006), less loneliness (Stanley, Conwell, Bowen, & Van Orden, 2014), and enhanced well-being (Cline, 2010), although others report increased depression in pet owners (in unmarried men; Tower and Nokota 2006). Similarly, pet attachment in older women has been both positively associated with depression (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011) and also with mediating the relationship between loneliness and depression (Krause-Parello, 2012;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). The causal factors driving the mixed results in these correlational studies are unclear. ...
... There is some precedence for finding increased internalizing symptoms associated with pet ownership, albeit with current pet ownership in adults. Two studies reported increased depression in some adult pet owners (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011;Tower and Nokota, 2006), but a dearth of research exists in this area, particularly for pet ownership and college students. These results suggest that any benefit to social support that may be provided by growing up with pets does not extend to lessening internalizing symptoms once students enter college. ...
Full-text available
Article
Internalizing symptoms are prevalent in students as they enter and complete college. Considering research suggesting mental health benefits of pet ownership, this study explores the relationship between pet ownership, social support (SS), and internalizing symptoms (IS) in a cohort of students across their 4-year college experience. With no differences at college entry, students growing up with pets had greater IS through the fourth year, and greater SS through the third year, than those without pets. Currently living with a pet, gender, SS and personality predicted IS in the fourth year. Females experiencing higher IS in their first year are more likely to live with pets in their fourth year, and fourth year females living with pets or greatly missing absent pets have higher IS than females without pets or missing pets less. Findings suggest a unique relationship between IS in female students and their pet relationships not seen in males.
... However, the current evidence does not confirm the hypothesis that a strong emotional attachment to pets is associated with better mental health. While some studies found a positive relationship between strong emotional attachment to pets and mental health [8][9][10][11], others did not find such an association [12][13][14][15], and the majority of studies even found a negative relationship between emotional attachment to pets and mental health [6,[16][17][18][19][20], that is, a stronger emotional attachment to one's pet was linked to worse mental health. This effect is somewhat surprising and strongly contradicts the notion that only those pet owners who show a strong emotional attachment to pets experience (mental) health-benefitting effects of pet ownership. ...
... The relationship between insecure attachment to humans and poor mental health has been very consistently shown. The association between attachment to pets and poor mental health has been less extensively researched, however, the majority of studies suggests that a stronger emotional attachment to pets is linked to worse mental health [6,[16][17][18][19][20]. Building on evidence that provided support for more insecure and anxious attachment to humans being related to a stronger emotional attachment to pets, we assumed that the relationship between emotional attachment to pets and mental health might be accounted for their shared variance with attachment to humans. ...
Full-text available
Article
Background Several studies have investigated the relationship between emotional attachment to pets and mental health with the majority of studies finding a negative relationship between emotional attachment to pets and mental health. Interestingly, attachment to pets differs from attachment to humans with studies showing that humans with an insecure attachment style form a particularly strong emotional attachment to their companion animals. Human attachment style is also related to mental health with secure attachment being associated with superior mental health. Building on those findings, the current study aimed at exploring the role of attachment to humans in the relationship between emotional attachment to pets and mental health. Methods In this cross-sectional online survey (N = 610) we assessed the strength of emotional attachment to pets and attachment to humans. We further collected pet specific data as well as mental health burden in a sample of German dog owners (Mage=33.12; 92.79% women). We used a mediation model estimating the indirect link between emotional attachment to pets and mental health burden via human attachment and the direct link between emotional attachment to pets and mental health burden simultaneously. Results We found that attachment to humans fully mediated the positive association between emotional attachment to pets and mental health burden. A stronger emotional attachment to one’s dog was associated with lower comfort with depending on or trusting in others, whereby lower comfort with depending on or trusting in others was related to higher mental health burden. Moreover, a stronger attachment to one’s dog was also related to a greater fear of being rejected and unloved (Anxiety), which was, in turn, associated with a higher mental health burden. Conclusion Our findings suggest that the positive link between emotional attachment to pets and mental health burden is fully accounted for by its shared variance with insecure attachment to humans in a sample mostly comprising self-identified women. Future studies need to examine whether strong emotional bonds with pets may evolve as a compensatory strategy to buffer difficult childhood bonding experiences.
... Strong pet attachment has been associated with more symptoms of psychological distress, including depression and anxiety [21]. Similarly, stronger pet attachment has been linked to poorer mental health for elderly populations [22] and workers in high-risk occupations such as emergency services [23]. ...
... These associations attenuated slightly after controlling for parent/ child mental health, reflecting environmental and genetic origins of anxiety, whereby children are more likely to experience anxiety if their parents do [45]. Although this finding might seem counter-intuitive, due to evidence that pets are health-promoting [e.g., 17,46], this negative association between pet attachment and mental health has been reported elsewhere, both generally and during COVID-19 [e.g., [21][22][23]31]. Given that causality cannot be inferred, there are two possibilities. ...
Full-text available
Article
Restrictions, social isolation, and uncertainty related to the global COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted the ways that parents and children maintain family routines, health, and wellbeing. Companion animals (pets) can be a critical source of comfort during traumatic experiences, although changes to family routines, such as those caused by COVID-19, can also bring about challenges like managing undesirable pet behaviours or pet-human interactions. We aimed to examine the relationship between pet attachment and mental health for both parents and their children during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. A total of 1,034 parents living with a child under 18 years and a cat or dog completed an online cross-sectional survey between July and October 2020. Path analysis using multivariate linear regression was conducted to examine associations between objective COVID-19 impacts, subjective worry about COVID-19, human-pet attachment, and mental health. After adjusting for core demographic factors, stronger pet-child attachment was associated with greater child anxiety (parent-reported, p<.001). Parent-pet attachment was not associated with self-reported psychological distress (p=.42), however, parents who reported a strong emotional closeness with their pet reported greater psychological distress (p=.002). Findings highlight the role of pets during times of change and uncertainty. It is possible that families are turning to animals as a source of comfort, during a time when traditional social supports are less accessible. Alternatively, strong pet attachment is likely to reflect high levels of empathy, which might increase vulnerability to psychological distress. Longitudinal evidence is required to delineate the mechanisms underpinning pet attachment and mental health.
... Interestingly, a small number of studies have reported reduced mental health in people who are more highly attached to their companion animals. For example, Miltiades and Shearer (2011) found that higher levels of attachment to one's companion animal were associated with higher levels of depression in a group of older American adults. More recently, Lass-Hennemann and associates (2020) reported an association between stronger attachment to one's dog and higher levels of psychopathological symptoms. ...
... Other studies, however, are more in line with the results of the present investigation. For example, Miltiades and Shearer (2011) reported higher levels of depression in older adults with higher pet attachment than in individuals less well attached to their pets, while Hartwig and Signal (2020) reported a trend for increasing levels of loneliness with increasing pet attachment in a group of Australian adolescents. Interestingly, within the context of COVID-19, Ratschen and colleagues (2020) reported no significant relationship between companion animal attachment and the mental health of people during the first UK-based national lockdown, whilst McDonald and others (2021) found that the protective benefits of being highly attached to one's companion animal were correlated with the mental health status of the owner prior to lockdown; people with moderate to high levels of mental health symptoms pre-pandemic seemed to gain more health benefits from their companion animal than individuals reporting severe mental health symptoms. ...
Full-text available
Article
Companion animal ownership has been associated with a wide variety of physical and psychological health benefits. The extent to which a person gains any welfare advantages from the animal in their care, however, may be related to a wide variety of factors, one of which is the quality of the human–animal relationship. Thus far, little attention has been devoted to the role of attachment to one's companion animal on psychological wellbeing during a global pandemic, a time when mental health has been shown to be extremely poor. Therefore this study aimed to explore the relationship between the quality of the companion animal–human bond and mental wellbeing during a period of COVID-19-induced national lockdown in the United Kingdom. A purpose-designed online survey that aimed to measure sociodemographic background, companion animal ownership status, attachment level, and various components of mental wellbeing (depression, loneliness, positive experience, stress) was developed and completed by 249 UK-based adults (146 companion animal owners, 103 non-owners). Analysis revealed no significant relationship between companion animal ownership and any of the mental health outcome measures. Attachment to one's companion animal, however, was found to be a strong predictor of mental wellbeing, with higher bonds of attachment associated with higher levels of depression, loneliness, and lower levels of positive experience. Attachment to one's companion animal was not significantly associated with participants’ stress levels. Overall, findings from this study point to emotional vulnerability in people who are highly attached to their companion animal, although limitations must be borne in mind. This is an area worthy of further exploration, particularly considering the pandemic-induced rise in the number of people who have acquired a companion animal and the increment in mental health problems that has been predicted to emerge from COVID-19.
... The literature highlights mixed findings demonstrating the potential for health harms tied to pet ownership (Herzog, 2011), including greater mental health challenges (i.e., anxiety) which might be counteracted with increased physical activity shaped by having pets (Müllersdorf et al., 2010). Being attached to pets has also been linked to higher rates of depression among older rural people (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). At the same time, however, recent research shows how pets can significantly reduce mental health challenges such as reducing self-harm urges and preventing panic attacks and suicide attempts (Hawkins et al., 2021). ...
... LGBTQ+ people face interpersonal and structural inequalities tied to the subordination of their gender and sexual identities that do not align with dominant heteronormative cisgender societal expectations, or the privileging of heterosexuality and gender norms (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). As a result, LGBTQ+ people endure minority stress that harms their health when they must continually navigate anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice and discrimination (Meyer, 2003). ...
Full-text available
Article
Health disparities persist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ+)-identified people, often shaped by minority stress through anti-LGBTQ+ stigma. Resilience and coping are important for LGBTQ+ people widely, especially through social supports, but further examination is needed into more diverse, expansive mental health assets. Companion animals, or pets, have significant positive mental health benefits in the general population, but more understanding is needed to validate LGBTQ+ people’s lived experiences of minority stress, mental health challenges, and pet-based sources of resilience. We employ the minority resilience framework to ask: What role do pets play in how LGBTQ+ people navigate and cope with stress? This U.S.-based study centers the voices of 45 LGBTQ+ people’s qualitative interview narratives characterizing the diverse coping and resilience-building processes they develop through pet relationships. Findings demonstrate diverse processes surrounding pets as contributing to resilience, as participants emphasized the unique beneficial emotional connections pets provided. Second, pet family members were conceptualized as vital sources of support that promoted thriving. Finally, pet relationships fostered happiness and life enjoyment that augmented participants’ life satisfaction. This study delineates more diverse understandings of how LGBTQ+ people manage stress through their pet relationships, which can provide vital information to service providers and policymakers in more holistically attending to marginalized communities’ health needs.
... However, in the past twenty years, more and more studies were performed that failed to reproduce the results of these older studies. They either observed no effects of keeping pets on human wellbeing and health [19], or actually observed negative effects of keeping dogs, and even more of keeping cats [20], on health, survival of patients and members of general population and their wellbeing [14,[21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]. The question of the existence of positive or negative effects of keeping pets is still open; however, more and more authors have reached the conclusion that many of the older results may be strongly biased by autoselection of participants of studies and selective reporting of only positive results, or a priori expected results of studies [18]. ...
... The economic situation of subjects is correlated with their health and probably also their quality of life. It is also found that old people keep pets less often than middle age people, often because, for technical and economic reasons, they cannot meet the needs of their pets [28,35]. The age of subjects is usually controlled in statistical tests. ...
Full-text available
Article
Many studies show that keeping cats and dogs has a positive impact on humans’ physical and mental health and quality of life. The existence of this “pet phenomenon” is now widely discussed because other studies performed recently have demonstrated a negative impact of owning pets or no impact at all. The main problem of many studies was the autoselection–participants were informed about the aims of the study during recruitment and later likely described their health and wellbeing according to their personal beliefs and wishes, not according to their real status. To avoid this source of bias, we did not mention pets during participant recruitment and hid the pet-related questions among many hundreds of questions in an 80-minute Internet questionnaire. Results of our explorative study performed on a sample of 10,858 subjects showed that liking dogs has a weak positive association with quality of life. However, keeping pets, especially cats, and even more being injured by pets, were strongly negatively associated with many facets of quality of life. Our data also confirmed that infection by the cat parasite Toxoplasma had a very strong negative effect on quality of life, especially on mental health. However, the infection was not responsible for the observed negative effects of keeping pets, as these effects were much stronger in 1,527 Toxoplasma-free subjects than in the whole population. Any cross-sectional study cannot discriminate between a cause and an effect. However, because of the large and still growing popularity of keeping pets, the existence and nature of the reverse pet phenomenon deserve the outmost attention.
... Borderline individuals are often highly neurotic, and neuroticism has been shown to be associated with psychological and life stress, maladjustment, and poor coping (for a review, see Ormel, Rosemalen and Farmer 2004). Owners of traditional pets have been observed to have less neuroticism than non-pet owners (Miltiades and Shearer 2011;Zilcha-Mano, Mikulincer and Shaver 2012). Those who own aggressive versus nonaggressive pets tend to be more neurotic (Podberscek and Serpell 1997;Wells and Hepper 2012). ...
... Those who own aggressive versus nonaggressive pets tend to be more neurotic (Podberscek and Serpell 1997;Wells and Hepper 2012). More neurotic people, or people going through a transition period increasing their neurotic tendencies, have been shown to have an increased attachment to their traditional pet (Sable 1989(Sable , 1991(Sable , 1995Miltiades and Shearer 2011). A pet serves as a consistent emotional support in times of need, and it follows that individuals with increased neurotic tendencies would have increased attachment to their pet. ...
Full-text available
Article
A growing number of studies have assessed the personality of pet owners. However, although there is a large number of people who own exotic pets, their personalities have seldom been examined. Furthermore, studies of personality of pet owners have focused almost exclusively on typical personality traits, ignoring associations with “dark” traits. Here, we assessed both traditional and some dark personality features in association with pet ownership and attachment in 325 pet owners via an online survey. We predicted that individuals scoring higher on narcissism and borderline personality features would be a) more likely to own exotic pets, and b) less attached to their pets compared with people scoring lower on narcissism and traditional pet owners. Additionally, we theorized that neurotic pet owners would be more attached to their pets compared with less neurotic pet owners. We did not find an association between personality and exotic pet ownership but we found that those high in grandiose narcissism were actually more attached to their traditional pets. Those high in vulnerable narcissism were more attached only if their pets were exotic. Those high in borderline features were less attached to both kinds of pets. Personality assessments including “dark” features of personality may therefore be useful in predicting attachment to pets during the matching process of potential adopters to pets.
... Some studies by pet type have found that dogs are more beneficial than cats (Enmarker et al., 2015;Ikeuchi et al., 2021;Serpell, 1991), but others obtained the opposite results (Branson et al., 2017). Such considerable heterogeneity could be attributed to differences in the background characteristics of pet owners (Gulick and Krause-Parello, 2012;Purewal et al., 2019;Saunders et al., 2017), their attachment and attitude toward pets (Fritz et al., 1996;Miltiades and Shearer, 2011;Min et al., 2019), and the study methods (Wells, 2019). ...
Article
Background Previous studies have investigated the relationship between pet ownership and mental health in various populations, but few have targeted women around childbirth when they have heightened vulnerability to mental disorders. This study therefore examined this association in women around childbirth. Methods Data were obtained from 80,814 mothers in an ongoing nationwide birth cohort study in Japan. Pet ownership status—none, dog(s) only, cat(s) only, or both—was determined during the second/third trimester of pregnancy. Mental health was assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6), with each score measured at two different time points around childbirth. Generalized linear models were used to derive adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) for pet ownership, with no pet ownership as the reference. Results Dog ownership was associated with reduced risk of depressive symptoms at 1 month (aOR: 0.97, 95%CI: 0.95–0.98) and 6 months postpartum (aOR: 0.98, 95%CI: 0.96–0.99) and with psychological distress at 12 months postpartum (aOR: 0.96, 95%CI: 0.92–0.999). In contrast, cat ownership was associated with increased risk of depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum (aOR: 1.04, 95% CI: 1.02–1.06) and psychological distress in the second/third trimester (aOR: 1.07, 95% CI: 1.02–1.12). Ownership of both cats and dogs was associated with increased risk of psychological distress in the second/third trimester (aOR: 1.12, 95% CI: 1.03–1.21) but was largely similar to that of the reference group. Conclusions Dog ownership was a protective factor for maternal mental health problems, whereas cat ownership was a risk factor. These findings suggest that the type of pet owned, cat or dog, plays a differential role in maintaining mothers’ mental health in the perinatal and postpartum periods.
... Alternatively, some owners may have overestimated the emotional benefits that are attainable from pet ownership. Some studies have shown dog acquisition improves human mental wellbeing [36][37][38], but other studies have found null effects [39][40][41] or even a detrimental association between pet ownership and mental health [42]. Despite the uncertainty in the scientific literature, extensive media coverage has led to a widespread belief that pet ownership is beneficial for mental health [43]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Millions of animals are adopted from animal shelters in the United States each year, although some are returned post-adoption, which can decrease both the animals’ chances of future adoptions and the owners’ willingness to adopt again. In this study, we investigated the impact of adopter expectations for ownership and animal behavioral problems on post-adoptive dog returns at a large animal shelter in South Carolina. Between June–September 2021, 132 dog adopters completed a survey about their expectations for ownership through Qualtrics. Twenty-nine adopters returned their dogs to the shelter within three months of adoption, with a median length of ownership of eight days. Owners completed follow-up questionnaires about their perceptions of adoption and dog behavior at two days, two weeks, and four months post-adoption. Categorical principal component analysis revealed three factors pertaining to adopters’ expectations for ownership. Independent t-tests showed returning owners had significantly higher expectations for dog behavior and health (t = −2.32, p = 0.02) and the human–dog bond compared with non-returning owners (t = −2.36, p = 0.02). Expectations for ownership responsibilities did not differ between the groups. Two-thirds of adopters experienced dog behavioral problems post-adoption, although training difficulty decreased significantly between two days and four months (F = 5.22, p = 0.01) and nonsocial fear decreased between two weeks and four months post-adoption (X2 = 10.17, p = 0.01). Shelters may benefit from utilizing adoption counselling to ensure adopters understand the potential for dog behavioral problems in the early stages of ownership and develop appropriate expectations for the human–dog relationship. Post-adoption behavioral support may also help some owners to overcome behavioral difficulties as their dogs adapt to the new environment.
... Persons in empty-nested households tend to experience high levels of loneliness [35,36]. While recent studies suggest that pet ownership can compensate for the lack of human companionship [37], it is still unclear whether pet companionship can actually provide health benefits to older adults [38]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Background To examine the time trends of leisure activity engagement among young-old adults aged 65–74 in China over a 16-year period. Methods Data for a nationally representative sample of young-old adults was sourced from the 2002–2018 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (N = 9504). Generalized estimating equations regressions were implemented to assess temporal trends for 10 different leisure-time activities. We also evaluated time trends for solitary versus social leisure-time activities. Results Young-old adults were less likely to engage in any form of social activities (e.g. participate in social events) over time, controlling for other confounders such as age, sex, education, income, and health characteristics. Trends in outdoor activities participation and tourism also declined over 2002-2014, but reversed in 2018. In contrast, solitary leisure activities (e.g. watching TV) became more popular. There was a significant spike in the likelihood of keeping pets from 2011 onwards, especially among urbanites. Conclusions The future elderly in China have tended towards home-bound and solitary leisure activities over time, which warrants policy attention and public health interventions to reverse such trends.
... Furthermore, pet ownership and social support are found to be predictors of survival in and after crisis situations, including illnesses (Friedmann and Thomas 1995), or posttraumatic growth (Dominick et al. 2020). However, having to care for a pet might not in itself lead to lower levels of depression (Miltiades and Shearer 2011). Another study found that pets have a positive influence on their owners' overall health (Headey et al. 2008). ...
Full-text available
Article
The social distancing required during Covid-19 times tended to make people feel lonelier than usual. Those with pets might, however, have experienced this less, because pets are known for fostering their owners’ subjective well-being. Building on a recently published structural equation model, our study enhances the understanding of subjective well-being by including the construct social distancing during Covid-19 times. In order to answer our research question— How does human-pet relationship need support influence subjective well-being by considering social isolation during Covid-19 times? —we build on the basic needs theory, assuming that humans as well as their pets have an inherent need of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Using a multivariate data analysis method, namely partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM), we establish a path model and examine the relationship between human-pet relationship need support and subjective well-being by including psychological distress and social isolation during Covid-19 times as mediators. We operationalize subjective well-being as a three-dimensional construct consisting of positive affect, happiness, and life satisfaction. In a sample of 215 pet owners in the USA, supporting their need increases subjective well-being, and decreases the psychological distress and loneliness caused by social isolation during Covid-19 times. Furthermore, psychological distress decreases subjective well-being, whereas perceived loneliness during Covid-19 times does not. Our main contributions are to not only enhance our knowledge on the importance of human-pet relationships in critical times, but also to provide policy makers with insights into what influences people’s subjective well-being, which is closely related to their psychological health.
... Conversely, there is evidence that, rather than improving owners' mental health or well-being, strong attachment to companion animals can be associated with worse outcomes for depression and loneliness, predicting vulnerability in owners [9,10]. Research has indicated that animal owners have a significantly higher likelihood of experiencing depression or anxiety [11][12][13], and it is possible that the responsibility of providing care for an animal is connected to negative mental health outcomes [14][15][16][17]. Thus, there is a consensus in this developing, interdisciplinary field that considerable scope for targeted research to investigate the relationships between humans and animals for health and well-being exists [5,9,10]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Research has reported the benefits of companion animals for people with severe mental illness (SMI). However, this evidence base is fragmented and unclear. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to explore the role of companion animals in the context of social distancing and isolation measures for people with SMI. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the links between mental and physical health and animal ownership in people with SMI and to explore animal owners’ perceptions related to human–animal interactions during the pandemic restrictions. A survey was conducted with a previously assembled cohort of individuals with SMI in the UK. The survey included previously validated and new bespoke items measuring demographics, and outcomes related to mental and physical health, and human–animal interactions. The survey also included a question inviting free-text responses, allowing participants to describe any experiences of their human–animal relationships during the pandemic. Of 315 participants who consented to participate, 249 (79%) completed the survey. Of these, 115 (46.2%) had at least one companion animal. Regression analyses indicated that animal ownership was not significantly associated with well-being and loneliness. However, animal ownership was associated with a self-reported decline in mental health (b = 0.640, 95% CI [0.102–1.231], p = 0.025), but no self-reported change in physical health. Thematic analysis identified two main themes relating to the positive and negative impact of animal ownership during pandemic restrictions. Animal ownership appeared to be linked to self-reported mental health decline in people with SMI during the second wave of the pandemic in the UK. However, the thematic analysis also highlighted the perceived benefit of animal ownership during this time. Further targeted investigation of the role of human–animal relationships and the perceived human–animal bond for human health is warranted.
... However, companion animals also play an important role. Older adults show high levels of attachment to their pets, and they may substitute or complement human companionship following the death of friends and family members (79). Research also shows that pet ownership may buffer stressful situations, improve physical activity, and increase resiliency against depression and cognitive decline (80)(81)(82)(83). ...
Full-text available
Article
There is increasing awareness among animal shelter professionals regarding the role of shelters in perpetuating inequities in pet ownership, although the relationship between owner vulnerabilities and animal shelter services is largely understudied. Currently, there is no literature comparing the sociodemographic conditions of communities where surrendered animals originate and communities where they are adopted. The present study compared the “flow” of surrendered animals between originating communities (incoming) and communities where they were adopted (outgoing; n = 21,270). To analyze community-level vulnerability, we used the Canadian Index of Multiple Deprivation (CIMD), which has four dimensions of social vulnerability. We found that three of the four CIMD dimensions were significantly different between surrendering and adopting communities (Ethnocultural Composition, Situational Vulnerability (SV), Economic Dependency, but not Residential Instability). For further investigation, we also grouped our analysis by intake groups (small animal n = 2,682; puppy n = 973; dog n = 3,446; kitten n = 6,436; cat n= 7,733) and found multiple relationships for which the incoming and outgoing CIMD quintiles were different. For example, for both puppies and kittens, the median outgoing SV quintile ranks were statistically significantly lower (less vulnerable) than incoming quintile ranks, with the effect size being moderate (puppy r = 0.31, kitten r = 0.30; p ≤ 0.0025), supporting the concern of the flow of certain animals from more vulnerable to less vulnerable communities. The results of this research provide a basis for understanding potential inequities in the use of shelter services to surrender or adopt an animal. Furthermore, these methods allow animal shelters to assess community needs and create interventions to reduce intake and increase adoption of animals. Finally, these data provide further support that animal sheltering is best considered from a One Welfare perspective.
... Other studies have found that increased pet attachment is detrimental. Higher pet attachment is associated with increased depressed mood in older women (Krause-Parello, 2012), higher levels of depression and loneliness in adults living alone (Antonacopoulos & Pychyl, 2010), and increased depression in rural older adults (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). ...
Article
Background: Pet ownership is often assumed to have mental health benefits, but the effect of pets on suicide risk has a scant literature. Aims: Using the interpersonal theory of suicide, we examined the relationships between perceived burdensomeness (PB), thwarted belongingness (TB), overall attachment to one's pet, pet attachment avoidance or anxiety, and suicide risk. The following three hypotheses were investigated: (1) Higher attachment would be indirectly associated with lower suicide risk via lower TB and lower PB; (2) attachment would be associated with higher suicide risk, as conditioned on attachment avoidance/anxiety; and (3) attachment avoidance/anxiety would be associated with higher suicide risk via higher TB/PB. Method: Undergraduates ( N = 187) completed surveys, and indirect effect and conditional effect analyses were utilized. Results: Overall attachment was associated with lower PB, which was associated with lower suicide risk. The relationship between overall attachment and suicide risk was not conditional upon attachment anxiety/avoidance. Attachment avoidance was associated with increased levels of TB, which was associated with increased suicide risk. Attachment anxiety was associated with increased suicide risk via TB and PB. Limitations: We used a university sample that had limited access to pets. Conclusions: Findings suggest that pet ownership may provide mixed associations with suicide risk.
... Further, research shows that pet owners aged 50 and older are almost twice as likely to report historical symptoms of depression as non-pet owners (Mueller et al., 2018). Additionally, higher levels of attachment to pets correspond to more symptoms of depression in older adults (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). ...
Article
The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in anxiety and depressive symptoms between older adult pet owners and non-pet owners after accounting for various correlates. Research findings on the anxiety-relieving and antidepressant effects of late-life pet ownership are mixed and limited. This may be due in part to various characteristics that impact the likelihood of owning a pet. Propensity score matching was used to pair 169 pet owners with 169 non-pet owners aged 70–91 years who participated in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Study of Aging. One set of propensity scores was created using age, sex, race, rurality, marital status, and income, as well as self-reported health, difficulty with activities of daily living, and difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living. A second set of scores was created using age, sex, race, rurality, marital status, and income. Multiple linear regression analyses were then used to explore the relation between pet ownership status and anxiety or depressive symptoms, controlling for the other symptoms. Pet ownership was significantly associated with lower self-reported anxiety symptoms (β = –0.14) but not depressive symptoms (β = –0.03) in the data matched without health variables. When propensity score matching included health variables, pet ownership was related to neither symptoms of anxiety (β = –0.08) nor depression (β = 0.05). These results suggest that owning a pet in later life is related to fewer anxiety symptoms, over and above the impact of depressive symptoms, even after accounting for various demographic and economic covariates. However, general and functional health appear to be critical to this relation, but the direction of this relation could not be determined from our analyses (i.e., it is not clear whether the relation between pet ownership and anxiety symptoms is confounded by, mediates, or is mediated by health). This study is the first large-scale analysis to find a significant relation between pet ownership and fewer anxiety symptoms in older adults.
... Previous studies about the effect of pets on older people have reported about mammalian species, reptiles, birds, and fish as pets, and mammals in particular have been extensively studied [7,[9][10][11]. Applebaum (2020) reported that younger-aged people, before the age of 60, have the highest percentage of mammalian pet ownership [12]. Other studies report that compared to the younger generation, the percentage of people with pets are low in generation above the age of 60 [13]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Aging increases the risk of social isolation, which could lead to conditions such as depressive mood. Pet ownership is known to reduce social isolation. However, previous studies have mainly focused on mammals as pets, which could be difficult at old age. A small ornamental fish is relatively easy to culture and might be a suitable alternative. In this research, we aimed to elucidate the possible effects of fish ownership on the psychological state of community-dwelling older adults in Japan. A Bottleium, a bottle-type aquarium, was selected to lower the burden of fish ownership. A workshop was hosted in 2019 and participants brought home their own Bottleium, with fish and water snail inside. Nineteen participants gave consent to the follow-up interview a month later. Five themes, “observation of fish and water snail,” “interaction between the fish and the owner,” “taking care of the fish as pet owner,” “facilitation of interpersonal interaction,” and “development of support system,” emerged from thematic analysis. The promotion of animal-to-human, and human-to-human interaction and development of responsibility could relate to a sense of social inclusion and ikigai-kan, a purpose of life. Fish ownership, when using equipment that suits the physical capability of older adults, could act as a positive stimulus.
... hypertension, high cholesterol), but demographic factors such as lower socioeconomic status and older age also impacted this relationship (Koivusilta and Ojanlatva, 2006). Pet attachment may also link to greater depressive symptoms, as found among older rural US residents (Miltiades and Shearer, 2011). Causal relationships are difficult to discern, however, as people with more mental health struggles may seek out pets for comfort, and pet ownership may encourage both more physical activity (i.e. ...
Full-text available
Article
Experiences of homelessness are challenging for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ+) young people. LGBTQ+ young adults without stable housing endure mental health struggles stemming from multiple structural disadvantages. In navigating stressors, LGBTQ+ young people may develop bonds with companion animals, or pets. Demonstrating the diverse ways LGBTQ+ young adults manage mental health challenges while homeless, we qualitatively analyzed the narratives of 17 LGBTQ+ young adults (18–25) surrounding their pet relationships. Participants emphasized the positive power of pets in their lives to help offset stressors. These findings illustrate how marginalized young people manage their mental health through informal resources. Incorporating companion animals could potentially enhance services for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing marginalization.
... Although research on HAI is often biased toward reporting on the benefits of relationships with companion animals, there is also emerging evidence that pet ownership and related bonds with pets may be associated with mental health vulnerability and lead to financial stress, housing instability, and delayed or deferred healthcare Barker et al., 2020;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011;Power, 2017;Ratschen et al., 2020;Tower & Nokota, 2006). For example, Barker et al. (2020) found that college students with pets maintain higher social support throughout college but greater internalizing symptoms throughout their college years. ...
Article
Objective : The current study evaluates whether, and to what extent, the association between gender-based victimization and wellbeing among sexual and gender minority emerging adults varies as a function of emotional support from companion animals. Method : Data were collected from young people between the ages of 18 and 21 years who self-identified as a sexual and/or gender minority ( N = 134; 37.3% ethnic/racial minority; 49.2 % gender minority; 98.5% sexual minority). Results: Results of simple and multiple moderation models suggest that the effect of victimization on self-esteem is moderated by comfort from pets, and that the relation between victimization and self-esteem is statistically significant at low levels of comfort from pets and high levels of social support. We did not find evidence of moderation in models with either anxiety or depression as the dependent variable. Conclusions: These findings underscore the potential role of emotional comfort derived from relationships with pets in supporting psychological wellbeing following gender-based victimization, as well as the importance of community collaboration between human and animal support services.
... The claim that companion animals promote human psychological health is disputed, partly because it is unclear to what extent an individual's psychological disposition influences the decision to keep an animal (Herzog, 2011;McNicholas et al., 2005). Previous studies have shown that caretakers are at greater risk of suffering from psychological problems (Koivusilta & Ojanlatva, 2006;Müllersdorf, Granström, Sahlqvist, & Tillgren, 2010), that caretakers more attached to their dogs are at greater risk of being depressed (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011), and that the effect on human health depends on the caretakers' human social support (Peacock, Chur-Hansen, & Winefield, 2012). ...
Article
Although various benefits of cats and dogs have been extensively studied, their fundamental economic value is poorly understood. Economic values are, in contrast to monetary values, determined subjectively and guide individuals in their decisions. This study presents a conceptual economic model of the value of cats and dogs which provides a basis for future research. Benefits of cats and dogs identified in the literature are categorized in relation to the model. The multidimensional value of these nonhuman animals includes different use and non-use values, for caretakers and other humans. Data from an online survey on the salience (importance of attributes in memory) of cats and dogs in Sweden provide support for the proposed model. It is argued that the subjective well-being approach developed in psychology provides a good starting point for estimating many of the economic values of these animals, but that different types of values may require different approaches.
... In contrast to previous studies on the attachment between the older people and pets [59,60] and the connection between therapeutic dogs and old patients [61,62], we have incorporated the interaction between the old people and companion dogs into the urban space while reflecting on the rapid urbanization in developing countries, the inclusiveness of public space and the acceptance of animals as citizens. The public space in post-reform China is vastly different from that in the West. ...
Full-text available
Article
In this paper, we argue that research on the everyday life of older people needs to move beyond anthropocentrism because non-human support contributes to the diversity of their social networks. We elaborate this argument by examining how companion dogs are involved in the urban empty-nest family in Guangzhou (an aging and highly urbanized city in China), the building of multispecies kinships by urban empty nesters in later life and improving the health of urban empty nesters. Participatory observations and 20 in-depth interviews were combined to assess the association between dog ownership and the reconstruction of later life. Specifically, we focus on the co-disciplined pursuit of outdoor activities by urban empty nesters and their companion dogs; this pursuit represents a shared leisure practice that maintains multispecies kinship and is a creative way for older individuals to improve their happiness and physical functioning. This paper provides a relational and reflective understanding of the interaction between the urban empty nesters and companion dogs and the implications of this interaction in the urban leisure space.
... Previous research suggests that attachment to companion animals, in particular dogs and cats, can reduce loneliness and contribute to a general sense of emotional and social wellbeing throughout the life cycle (Powell et al., 2019;Sable, 1995;Winefield, Black, and Chur-Hansen, 2008). Further research has shown a variety of claimed health benefits for humans, including; increased exercise and physical activity, improved general and cardiovascular health, and improved opportunity for communication (with dogs functioning as facilitators for human interaction) (Brown and Rhodes, 2006;Friedmann and Krause-Parello, 2018;Miltiades and Shearer, 2011;McNicholas et al., 2005). At the same time, there can be situations where wellbeing may also be negatively affected by the presence of a companion animal. ...
Article
Background The introduction of an adult onset Separation Anxiety Disorder in the DSM-V recognises that separation anxiety can occur at any stage across the lifespan. In this paper, we examine whether adult separation anxiety, which is known to occur when people are apart from other people close to them, can also develop when people are separated from animal companions. The social and individual psychological correlates of this reported phenomenon are examined. Methods Participants (N = 313, aged 18-76, M = 41.89 years), completed demographic information and questionnaires measuring separation anxiety from companion animals and humans, attachment towards companion animals and humans, and social support. Results Significant positive relationships were observed between separation anxiety from humans, people substitution and separation anxiety from animals. Participants with greater separation anxiety from animals also reported less social support and greater attachment anxiety involving humans. People substitution was also positively related to greater animal-related separation anxiety. Associations were generally weaker when cats were identified as the principal companion animal. Participants without children reported significantly less attachment-related avoidance (human); less perceived social support; greater people substitution; and, greater separation anxiety towards companion animals. Separation anxiety from humans, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety accounted for 41% of variance in separation anxiety from animals. Limitations The correlational design does not allow the investigation of causal associations. Conclusions A strong, positive relationship was observed between human-related separation anxiety and animal-related separation anxiety, which was significantly stronger for people with lower levels of social support.
... After six months, they compared those who obtained a pet with those who did not and found no difference in happiness or loneliness. More strikingly, Miltiades and Shearer (2011) found that older adults who were highly attached to their dogs were more depressed than those who were less attached. It seems that the relationship between pet ownership and SWB has not yet been completely explored. ...
Article
The aim of this study was to provide deeper insight into the relationship between pet-related life events and the subjective wellbeing of pet owners, as well as to analyze definitions of happiness that included reference to pets. This research was conducted online as a part of the Croatian Longitudinal Study on Wellbeing (CRO-WELL). For the purposes of this study, the following variables were selected: overall happiness, life satisfaction, subjective ratings of health, and the occurrence and parameters (positivity, negativity, importance, anticipation) of two pet-related life events: acquiring a pet and the death of a pet during the previous year. Additionally, of a pool of lay people’s definitions of happiness (n = 4,059), those containing a reference to pets (n = 89) were analyzed. The total sample consisted of 5,034 participants, of whom 658 acquired a pet in the past year, 272 experienced the death of a pet, and an additional 221 experienced both events. Participants who experienced the death of a pet during the previous year were significantly less happy and satisfied compared with those who did not obtain a pet and did not experience the death of a pet in the previous year. Overall happiness was weakly positively correlated with positive evaluations of obtaining a pet and the importance of obtaining a pet. The anticipation of the death of a pet was positively related to positive evaluations of the death of the animal, suggesting an adaptation process took place before the death. Participants who attributed less importance to an event were more likely to experience positive events (obtaining a pet) as less positive and negative events (death of a pet) as less negative. Participants who anticipated an event evaluated it as more positive and less negative. Out of 4,059 participants who provided definitions of happiness, 89 (2.2%) of them included pets in these definitions. Over half of them referred to the pet as the most important member of the family or was equal to other family members, while in the remaining definitions pets were only a part/fragment of a broader definition of happiness. Participants referred mostly to dogs or used the generic word “pet,” while cats, the only animal named beside dogs, were mentioned in only a few cases. Greeting the owner was the most frequently mentioned activity, while the joy of a pet and unconditional love were the most frequently mentioned emotions.
... Some studies have found an association between dog ownership and improved mental health outcomes, such as reduced depression, anxiety (Garrity, Stallones, Marx, & Johnson, 1989;Siegel, 1990), and loneliness (Krause-Parello, 2012;McConnell, Brown, Shoda, Stayton, & Martin, 2011) and greater life satisfaction (Bao & Schreer, 2016;McConnell et al., 2011). Other studies suggest that dogs can cause additional stress for the owner (Enmarker, Hellzén, Ekker, & Berg, 2015;Miltiades, & Shearer, 2011). Additionally, some studies have found no association between dog ownership and mental health outcomes (Clark, 2010;Raina, Waltner-Toews, Bonnett, Woodward, & Abernathy, 1999). ...
Full-text available
Article
The association between dog ownership and mental health remains unclear. The primary aim of this study was to investigate this association, while the secondary aim was to examine possible interactions between dog ownership and marital status in relation to mental health. A population sample of 68,362 adults living in England were included in this study. Self-reported information on short-term psychological distress and long-standing mental illness was collected. Multilevel logistical models were used to allow for inter-dependence of participants within the same household. In total, 15,856 (23.2%) participants reported the presence of dog in the household. Dog owners were less likely to report long-standing mental illness than non-owners. An interaction was found between dog ownership and marital status in relation to mental health. In subsequent stratified analyses solitary owners displayed increased odds of short-term psychological distress, whilst companioned owners displayed lower odds of reporting long-standing mental illness. Our findings indicate a complex relationship between dog ownership and mental health, and suggest that psychological health attributes of dog ownership may vary based on marital status. Further investigation is warranted, especially longitudinal studies which consider variation in dog-ownership behaviors.
... Moreover, they were no happier than the participants who had not gotten a pet. Additionally, another study into 117 older adults indicated that those who were considered extremely attached to their dogs tended have higher levels of depression than the participants who did not have as deep an attachment to their dogs [26]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Abstract: University students have been found to have higher rates of psychological distress than that of the general population, which reportedly rises significantly upon starting university and does not return to pre-university levels throughout their time in university. It is therefore highly important to find ways to improve student health and well-being. One way that may help is by interacting with animals. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether interacting with a dog would have a positive effect on university students' mood and anxiety. This study assigned 82 university students to either the experimental condition (dog interaction, n = 41) or to the control condition (dog video, n = 41). The students completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form (PANAS-X), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Pet Attitude Scale before their assigned conditions, to evaluate their mood and anxiety levels and attitudes to animals. The participants again completed the STAI and PANAS-X Form after their condition, to assess for possible changes in anxiety and mood. The findings of the study indicated that all participants, regardless of condition, experienced a reduction in their anxiety and an improvement in their mood across time. However, directly interacting with a dog resulted in greater declines in anxiety and improved mood scores, more so than watching a video. Consequently, it appears there are psychological benefits to be gained by students from interacting with dogs and it is hoped this study will help to inform future best practices in designing student dog interventions.
... Specifically, seven (26%) of the depression studies identified no effect, three studies (11%) found a negative effect (Bono et al., 2015;Enmarker, Hellzen, Ekker, & Berg, 2015;Parslow, Jorm, Christensen, Rodgers, & Jacomb, 2005) and three studies (7.4%) found equivocal effects. The three equivocal findings (Colby & Sherman, 2002;Gulick & Krause-Parello, 2012;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011) showed that the effects of companion animals are able to be moderated by other variables. Miltaides & Shearer (2011) found that greater pet attachment was associated with greater depression, unless the individual was sufficiently equipped to meet their pets needs, which was associated with lower depression. ...
Article
Objectives. The aim of this systematic literature review (SLR) was to investigate the effect of companion animals (whether simply as pets or used in more formal intervention approaches) on the physical and mental health of older adults (aged 60+). Methods. The reviewers identified key search terms and conducted a systematic search of the PsycINFO and PubMed databases. The 70 articles reviewed were evaluated through tabular and thematic analysis. Results. In 52 of the studies examined, companion animals positively contributed to the mental and/or physical health of older adults. With respect to mental health, involvement with a companion animal improved participant quality of life and effectively attenuated symptoms of depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and the behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia (BPSD). In relation to physical health, marked increases in physical activity and improvements in blood pressure and heart rate variability were the only consistent physical health improvements observed from companion animal interactions. Conclusions. Animal companionship can benefit the mental and physical health of older adults, although more and better controlled research on this topic is required. Clinical Implications. Use of companion animals has the potential to be an effective treatment or adjunct therapy to improve the health status and quality of life of older individuals.
... Atualmente, têm sido reportados inúmeros benefícios físicos e psicológicos para pessoas, associados à convivência com os cães e gatos (Sable et al., 2013). Alguns exemplos são a melhoria da comunicação e das habilidades sociais em pacientes com transtornos mentais, como o autismo (Hall et al., 2016), estímulo para a realização de atividade física, como caminhada (Lim & Rhodes, 2016), redução de sentimentos de solidão e depressão em pessoas que vivem sozinhas (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011;Stanley et al., 2014), dentre outros. Devem ser mencionados também os importantes papeis desempenhados pelos animais, não apenas para quem convive diretamente com eles, mas para a assistência à sociedade como um todo, como os trabalhos na polícia, salvamentos, cães guia e outras formas de assistência a pessoas com debilidades físicas (Audrestch et al., 2015). ...
Full-text available
Article
Entende-se por síndrome de ansiedade por separação (SAS) o conjunto de respostas fisiológicas e comportamentais, exibidas isoladamente ou em associação, por um dado animal quando na ausência de uma figura de apego. A SAS tornou-se um problema comportamental comumente reportado nos animais de companhia, sendo descritos sérios impactos sobre a qualidade da interação humano-animal e o bem-estar animal, em especial, dos cães. Por sua vez, para os gatos, tal temática tem sido abordada ainda de forma muito tímida, embora existam relatos de sua ocorrência na literatura científica. Os sinais comportamentais frequentemente relacionados à SAS são: reatividade anômala, vocalização excessiva, eliminação de fezes e / ou de urina em locais inadequados, comportamentos destrutivos e autolimpeza excessiva. A identificação e compreensão dos sintomas relacionados a este distúrbio, bem como, dos fatores que predispõe os animais a desenvolverem SAS, são de suma importância. Neste artigo será apresentada uma revisão sobre os principais fatores de risco já relacionados com a ocorrência de ansiedade por separação em cães e gatos domésticos, dentre eles, algumas características do próprio animal, do tutor e do ambiente de criação. Serão apontadas lacunas no conhecimento atual sobre a SAS, a fim de estimular mais pesquisas sobre este tema, que possam contribuir para a melhoraria do bem-estar, tanto dos animais, quanto das pessoas que com eles convivem.
... One survey-based study found that elderly adults with higher levels of attachment to their pets reported higher levels of depression compared to elderly adults who had lower levels of attachment toward their pets. 69 Individuals who reported stronger attachments to their pets reported grieving more strongly upon their pet's death than those with less strong attachments. 70 Those with greater attachment anxiety also experienced more severe grief upon loss of their pet. ...
Full-text available
Article
Shelby H Wanser, Kristyn R Vitale, Lauren E Thielke, Lauren Brubaker, Monique AR UdellDepartment of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USAAbstract: Research suggests that humans can form strong attachments to their pets, and at least some pets display attachment behaviors toward their human caretakers. In some cases, these bonds have been found to support or enhance the physical and emotional well-being of both species. Most human–animal interaction research to date has focused on adult owners, and therefore less is known about childhood pet attachment. However, there is growing evidence that pets may play an important role in the development and well-being of children, as well as adult family members. Research conducted to date suggests that child–pet relationships may be especially impactful for children who do not have stable or secure attachments to their human caretakers. However, given that human–animal interactions, including pet ownership, can also introduce some risks, there is considerable value in understanding the nature of child–pet attachments, including the potential benefits of these relationships, from a scientific perspective. The purpose of this review is to provide background and a brief overview of the research that has been conducted on childhood attachment to pets, as well as to identify areas where more research would be beneficial.Keywords: human–animal interactions, pet ownership, attachment style, secure base, child development
... Being able to perform a meaningful role and accomplish tasks promote self-determination and self-responsibility, therefore conferring positive benefits to mental health (Blouin, 2013;Irving et al., 2017). These findings differed to those other studies, which indicated that pet owners may be more at risk to a decline in mental health outcomes because of the various challenges they face with pet ownership (Enders-Slegers & Hediger, 2019;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011;Needell & Mehta-Naik, 2016). This notion was further observed when all participants, who have had previous pet ownership experience, displayed resilience and positive mental wellbeing in problem-solving these pet-related challenges like the loss of a pet. ...
Full-text available
Article
Objectives: With aging, older adults are at risk of a decline in mental health as they experience significant life stressors that are specific to later life. It is thus important to explore the potential of suitable approaches that promote healthy aging, to address the mental health needs of older adults. Pet ownership has been found to be associated with positive mental health outcomes; however, there is limited research on the lived experience and meaning derived from pet ownership. The purpose of this study was to explore pet ownership in community-dwelling older adults and its influence on mental health. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 community-dwelling older adults who were aged 65 and above and pet owners. Participants were interviewed individually on a single occasion about the meaning derived from the role of pet ownership and howthey perceived that their pet influenced their mental health. Results: Results were analysed using Colaizzi’s phenomenological framework and four themes emerged from the interviews: pets provide (i) comfort and safety; (ii) social inclusion and participation; (iii) purposeful routine and structure; and (iv) a meaningful role. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the role of pet ownership may benefit community-dwelling older adults by providing companionship, giving a sense of purpose and meaning, reducing loneliness and increasing socialisation. These benefits may also increase resilience in older adults against mental health disorders, which may positively influence their mental health outcomes.
... The majority of these studies (n = 8) assessed differences between pet owners and non-owners, (level 2c) (Antonacopoulos & Pychyl, 2010;Bennett et al., 2015;Branson et al., 2016;Enmarker et al., 2012;Garrity, Stallones, Marx, & Johnson, 1989;Mueller, Gee, & Bures, 2018;Parslow et al., 2005;Rajaram et al., 1993). Five additional level 5 studies were individual case studies (Likourezos et al., 2002) or non-representative cross-sectional surveys (Krause-Parello, 2012;Lund et al., 1984;Miller & Lago, 1990a;Miltiades & Shearer, 2011). ...
Full-text available
Article
Research on the impact of companion animals in the lives of older adults is considered from two perspectives: pet ownership and in animal-assisted interventions (AAI). This paper first presents a discussion of potential theoretical explanations of the impact of animals on human health and wellbeing among older adults, and then provides a systematic review and evaluation of existing research on the topics of human–animal interaction (HAI) and physical health and exercise, depression and anxiety, and loneliness and social functioning. Each of the studies in this review (n = 145) are rated according to modified Oxford Center for Evidence Based Medicine (OCEBM) levels and the role of theory, in conceptualizing the study or interpreting outcomes, is discussed. The quality of evidence for each topical area of HAI and aging research is summarized, and recommendations are made for future research directions that will increase our knowledge of the relationship between HAI and health outcomes for older adults in different settings.
... Many features need to be considered for assessment regarding pet loss like attachment level between pet owners and their pets or how pet THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN-ANIMAL ATTACHMENT AND PYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING 4 owners lose their pet when they old or young. Miltiades and Shearer (2011) conducted a research to find out the relationship between pet attachment, caring a pet, and depression in older adults. They used PAQ to measure the attachment level between the adults and their dogs. ...
Full-text available
Article
The purpose of this descriptive study is to examine the relationship between human-pet attachment and perceived stress level. Human-pet attachment is a strong emotional bond and close relationship between people and their pets. The significance of this study is that the important findings on human-pet attachment and perceived stress may help people to overcome their stress with the help of pets and people can be encouraged to have pets to reduce their stress levels which especially stem from their school and work conditions. The study was investigated in 414 people in the community. Participants who do not have pet completed Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and participants who have pet completed both PSS and Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS). Pet owners have lower stress level than non-pet owners and there is no relationship between pet owners' stress level and attachment level.
... Evcil hayvanların insanların hayatında önemli yer tutmasıyla beraber insanhayvan ilişkisiyle ilgili araştırmaların arttığı görülmektedir (Daly ve Morton, 2006;Miltiades ve Shearer, 2011;Smolkovic, Fajfar ve Mlinaric, 2012;Zilcha-Mano, Mikulincer ve Shaver, 2011). Araştırmalarda en çok çalışılan konunun evcil hayvan sahibi olmanın bireylerin sağlığı üzerindeki etkileri hakkında olduğu dikkat çekmektedir. ...
Full-text available
Article
The aim of the current study is to test the validity and reliability of the Pet Attachment Questionnaire (PAQ), which assess attachment orientation toward pet. The sample of the study consisted of 260 pet owners (24 males and 234 females) aged between 19 and 62 years. In line with the study purpose, participants were asked to complete Demographic Form, Pet Attachment Questionnaire, Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, CES-Depression Scale, StateTrait Anxiety Inventory, Penn Inventory of Scrupulosity, Experiences in Close RelationshipsRevised, Satisfaction with Life Scale. For the test-retest reliability analysis, 57 of the participants were reached again. Data were analyzed via SPSS and AMOS programs. As a result of the explanatory and confirmatory factor analysis, the two-factor structure of the PAQ, defined as anxiety and avoidance was supported. Further statistical analyses supported that PAQ was a valid and reliable measurement tool in the assessment of the attachment orientation towards pet.
... In a similar vein, a study of clients of two veterinary clinics and one pet grooming salon found that adults with high levels of attachment to their pets actually reported higher levels of depression than those with lower self-reported levels of attachment. That study also included the important observation that "elders who cannot adequately provide for their dog have higher levels of depression than those who can" [8]. An epidemiological study in Norway found that self-reported rates of depression were higher in cat owners than in dog owners or non-pet owners [9]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Many community-dwelling older adults are searching for ways to remain mentally and physically healthy as they age. One frequently offered suggestion is for older people to adopt a pet to avoid loneliness, to stay socially engaged, and to stave off depression. Despite the ubiquity of this advice in popular culture, research findings are equivocal on whether pet ownership is beneficial to the physical and psychological health of older adults. This article evaluates published data relating to pet ownership and its possible impact on depression and related symptoms in the elderly.
... On the one hand, some studies indicate that caring for animals is associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease (Allen, 2003), decreased loneliness and depression (Zasloff & Kidd, 1994), and higher levels of subjective well-being (SWB) (El-Alayli, Lystad, Webb, Hollingsworth, & Ciolli, 2006; McConnell et al., 2011). Others, however, found just the opposite effect, relating pet ownership to poorer physical health (Parker et al., 2010), more psychological problems (Müllersdorf, Granström, Sahlqvist, & Tillgren, 2010), and greater psychological vulnerability of people who feel strongly attached to their animal (Miltiades & Shearer, 2011; Peacock et al., 2012). Finally, some studies failed to find any relationship between caring for animals and physical and psychological well-being (Gilbey, McNicholas, & Collis, 2007; Gillum & Obisesan, 2010). ...
Article
In this paper, we elaborate and test a comprehensive theoretical model of SWB of animal caregivers. This model includes risk factors such as restrictions in daily life, negative emotions, and financial strain, and protective factors such as a sense of purpose in life, positive emotions, and physical activities. The model was tested in a sample of caregivers of dogs, cats, and horses (N = 631). Higher levels of satisfaction of the need for autonomy, experiencing more positive emotions, and greater fulfillment of social roles through the animal were positively associated with SWB, whereas experiencing more negative emotions, greater financial strain due to the animal, and degree of attachment to the animal were negatively associated with SWB. The proposed model is suitable to explain differences in subjective well-being among animal caregivers and may be valid across different types of animal caregivers.
... The scientific study of the human-animal bond is an emerging field, and various survey instruments have been developed in an attempt to determine the extent of the human-animal bond as defined by emotional attachment and commitment. A compendium of measures used to assess the humananimal bond has been published, 2 and various assessments have been applied in a variety of studies on the impact of the human-animal bond on human behavior, including home evacuation during Hurricane Ike, 3 depression in the elderly, 4 changes in oxytocin concentrations in pet owners following interaction with their dogs, 5 and how owners in Brazil respond when faced with mandatory euthanasia of their pets because of infection with the Leishmania infantum parasite. 6 In our study, an assessment of owner attachment was not performed. ...
... Pozytywne nastawienie do zwierząt przyczyniało się do tego, iż odgrywały one centralną rolę w życiu osób samotnych i stanowiły substytut towarzystwa innych ludzi. Osoby posiadające psa i deklarujące pozytywną relację z nim znacznie rzadziej uskarżały się na uczucie osamotnienia [23]. ...
Full-text available
Article
Summary The dogs and people have been living together for 16 thousands of years, positive impact of contact with a dog on a human was known already in antiquity. This article summarizes the latest research findings on the impact of contact with dogs on the cardiova-scular, immunological, hormonal system, physical activity and mental health, as well as the functioning of elderly people and children. It may be generally concluded that the main factor guaranteeing the dog's positive impact on man is human's positive attitude towards the dog. Also regular interactions are extremely important. The positive effect of the man-dog interaction may be a reduction of the level of stress, increased secretion oxytocin and reduced cortisol in the owner`s body. In the case of children it has been shown that early contact with a dog can reduce the risk of allergic diseases, as well as positively affect the emotional development of children. In the case of the elderly it is difficult to clearly determine whether it is desirable to have a "best friend", or not. Many authors present contradictory results. Being the owner of the dog may contribute to further improvement of the lives of the elderly.
Article
A common challenge for animal shelters/rescues is retaining volunteers that provide foster care for animals in their homes. This research investigated how animal shelters and rescues might better support volunteer dog fosters by examining the extent and role of attachment to the foster dog, the emotional challenges of fostering, and how organizations might alleviate these stressors. It employed data from a national survey of over 600 dog foster volunteers across the US. Findings suggest that emotional attachment to foster dogs is similar to attachment to pet dogs. Fostering animals does not appear to come without some emotional challenges for the human at the other end of the leash. Experiencing higher levels of emotional stress from fostering can have impacts on thoughts of quitting, which may hamper retention, particularly among the valuable volunteers who foster frequently. Organizational support directed at the human volunteer can alleviate these feelings, potentially increasing retention.
Article
Full text available from: https://www.research.va.gov/REPORT-Study-of-Costs-and-Benefits-Associated-with-the-Use-of-Service-Dogs-Monograph1.pdf Objectives. Determine whether overall disability and quality of life of Veteran participants in treatment for PTSD are improved by the provision of service dogs relative to provision of emotional support dogs. Design. Multicenter parallel, two-arm, randomized clinical trial with Veteran participants diagnosed with PTSD assigned 1:1 to either a service dog or an emotional support dog. Randomization was conducted centrally by the study coordinating center using the computer-generated Interactive Touch Tone Randomization System (ITTRS). Setting. Three VA medical centers: Atlanta VA Medical Center (Atlanta, GA) Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System (Iowa City, IA), and VA Portland Health Care System (Portland, OR). Participants. 227 Veteran participants were randomized and fulfilled study requirements, of which 181 were paired with a study dog. Intervention. After randomization to either the service dog intervention or emotional support dog intervention, an observation period of at least three months duration began; during this period both the study team and the participants were blinded to the type of dog to which the participant had been randomized. Dog type assignment disclosure to the participant and the study team occurred upon completion of the observation period. Participants were paired with either service dogs or emotional support dogs per assignment and followed for 18 months. Main outcome measures. Overall disability (WHO-DAS 2.0) and quality of life (VR-12). Secondary outcomes included PTSD symptoms (PCL-5), suicidal ideation (C-SSRS), depression (PHQ-9), sleep (PSQI) and anger (DAR). Results. 227 participants were randomized to either the service dog intervention (n=114) or emotional support dog (n=113) intervention. 46 participants terminated prior to pairing; (n=17) participants assigned to the service dog intervention versus (n=29) participants assigned to the emotional support dog intervention. 97 participants were paired with a service dog; 84 participants were paired with an emotional support dog. 9 participants paired with a service dog terminated after pairing; 19 participants paired with an emotional support dog terminated after pairing. Participants paired with a dog were on average 50.6 years old (SD=13.6; range 22-79), mostly male (80.1%), white (66.3%), and non-Hispanic (91.2%). After adjusting for baseline score, center, and gender, the linear mixed repeated measures (LMRM) model for WHO-DAS 2.0 (disability) showed no statistical difference between the two intervention groups nor did the mixed models for quality of life (VR-12) show statistical differences between the two groups for either PCS (physical health) or MCS (mental health). Of the secondary outcome measures, only PCL-5 (PTSD symptoms) using the adjusted LRMR model showed a statistically significant difference between intervention groups. Participants receiving the service dog intervention had a 3.7-point improvement (lower score=less symptoms of PTSD) in the PCL-5 total score over time as compared to the emotional dog intervention. Contrasts testing for a difference in the service dog group versus the emotional support dog group for suicidal ideation and behavior (per C-SSRS) did not show a significant difference between groups across time, however, it did show a difference between groups at 18 months with the service dog group having fewer suicidal behaviors and ideation. In both groups, WHO-DAS 2.0 scores at 18 months decreased (less disability) from scores at 3 months post pairing; improvement in VR-12 MCS also showed some improvement over time in both groups. Descriptive statistics for sleep and anger also showed a decline in scores (improvement) over time in both groups. Serious Adverse Events (SAE) and adverse events (AE) were compared across groups. None of the SAEs in either group were dog related. All AEs occurred in the emotional support dog group. Conclusions. While both groups appeared to have experienced some benefit, an improvement in overall disability and quality of life among Veteran participants with PTSD was not observed with the provision of a service dog relative to provision of an emotional support dog. Among secondary outcome measures, participants paired with a service dog experienced a reduction in the severity of PTSD symptoms (PCL-5) compared to participants paired with an emotional support dog, and had fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations, particularly at 18 months post- pairing.
Article
Objectives: Describe the emotional support animal (ESA) experience of college students detailing the process of obtaining an ESA, as well as the benefits and obstacles. Participants: Nine students who had an ESA at college provided preliminary information while an additional four offered insights into their COVID experience with their ESA. Archived records from the Accessibility Resource Center added detail on the ESA process. Methods: This mixed-method study included qualitative interviews (9 students prior to COVID and 4 during COVID) as well as a quantitative analysis of archived data. Thematic analysis was used to extract themes from the interviews. Archived data were analyzed for frequency of select topics. Results: Four positive themes (presence of animal, empowerment, symptom alleviation, and social catalyst) and three negative themes (housing accommodations, lack of ESA education on campus, and social consequences) were extracted from initial interview responses. Analysis of COVID interviews also revealed positive and negative themes with many similar to the pre-COVID responses but also included unique themes reflective of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Archived data revealed a substantial increase in the number of ESAs on campus, a wide range of species, and an array of complaints such as safety concerns, ESA behavior, ESA cleanliness, and ESA in unauthorized areas. Conclusions: Overall, the college ESA experience appears beneficial, facilitating the adjustment to college for students with mental health concerns. However, there are drawbacks. Knowledge of obstacles and concerns will help ease the ESA process for all constituents.
Article
Exposure to microaggressions can have detrimental impacts on the mental health of LGBTQ+ emerging adults. Positive social relationships are a well-documented protective factor that help to buffer the impact of adversity on mental health in this population. However, the role of social relationships with pets has received minimal attention in research on LGBTQ+ mental health, despite the high prevalence of pets in U.S. households. This cross-sectional study examined whether the association between interpersonal microaggressions and depressive symptoms among LGBTQ+ emerging adults varied as a function of attachment to pets across three domains: love, emotion regulation, and personal growth. We recruited 163 LGBTQ+ emerging adults (18-21 years) who lived with a cat and/or dog within the past year (98.8% sexual minority, 47.2% gender minority, 37.4% racial/ethnic minority). We found that love and emotion regulation significantly moderated the positive association between interpersonal microaggressions and depressive symptoms. Specifically, this association was only significant when love and emotion regulation were at moderate or high levels. These findings have important implications for practice with LGBTQ+ pet owners, as it suggests that high levels of pet attachment may amplify the relation between interpersonal microaggressions and depressive symptoms.
Full-text available
Article
This cross-sectional study aimed to analyse whether having a pet and how the owner relates to it may be associated with differences in health. 263 adults were studied, 82.82% of whom had pets and 17.18% who did not, responded to a protocol that aimed to assess sociodemographic variables, quality of the owner-pet relationship and health-related variables. The results reveal that, globally, there are no significant differences between those who have and those who do not have a pet in terms of health-related variables, even though men who have a pet show greater mental, social and psychological well-being, and greater satisfaction with life. A greater Emotional Proximity is associated with fewer symptoms of psychopathology, whereas a higher Perceived Costs of having a pet is associated with poor health and quality of life perception, as well as lower mental well-being. It is concluded that the quality of the relationship that it is established with the pet is more important than having the pet in itself. In view of the complexity of the factors involved, it will be important to develop longitudinal studies, with control of sociodemographic, clinical and pet-related variables.
Article
Introduction: People can be rejected by friends, strangers, hated outgroups, or computer simulations. The present research examines whether people can be rejected by pets. Methods: Two studies examined whether people can feel rejected by pets and how this affects their mood, fundamental needs, and aggression. Participants in Study 1 were directly rejected by a pet using an adapted version of the video message paradigm, and then reported on their mood, fundamental needs, and aggression. Study 2 directly compared differences in needs when writing about a rejection experience by a pet, a rejection experience by a person, and a control experience. Results: Study 1 confirmed that people can feel rejected by their pets by demonstrating that those who were rejected felt more negatively and less positively and had decreased need satisfaction, however they did not experience any changes in their aggression. Finally, in Study 2, people who were rejected by a pet or by a person experienced decreased need satisfaction as compared to a control experience. Discussion: Ultimately, these studies confirm pets can be perpetrators of rejection and such rejection hurts similarly to if a human perpetrated it. This may add to the growing body of research suggesting that pets do not provide uniformly positive effects on people.
Full-text available
Book
The second edition of this popular textbook encapsulates the excitement of the fascinating and fast-moving field of social psychology. A comprehensive and lively guide, it covers general principles, classic studies and cutting-edge research. Innovative features such as 'student projects' and 'exploring further' exercises place the student experience at the heart of this book. This blend of approaches, from critical appraisal of important studies to real-world examples, will help students to develop a solid understanding of social psychology and the confidence to apply their knowledge in assignments and exams.
Full-text available
Preprint
Many studies show that keeping cats and dogs has a positive impact on humans’ physical and mental health and quality of life. The existence of this “pet phenomenon” is now widely discussed because other studies performed recently have demonstrated a negative impact of owning pets or no impact at all. The main problem of many studies was the autoselection – participants were informed about the aims of the study during recruitment and later likely described their health and wellbeing according to their personal beliefs and wishes, not according to their real status. To avoid this source of bias, we did not mention pets during participant recruitment and hid the pet-related questions among many hundreds of questions in an 80-minute Internet questionnaire. Results of our study performed on a sample of on 10,858 subjects showed that liking cats and dogs has a weak positive association with quality of life. However, keeping pets, especially cats, and even more being injured by pets, were strongly negatively associated with many facets of quality of life. Our data also confirmed that infection by the cat parasite Toxoplasma had a very strong negative effect on quality of life, especially on mental health. However, the infection was not responsible for the observed negative effects of keeping pets, as these effects were much stronger in 1,527 Toxoplasma-free subjects than in the whole population. Any cross-sectional study cannot discriminate between a cause and an effect. However, because of the large and still growing popularity of keeping pets, the existence and nature of the reverse pet phenomenon deserve the outmost attention.
Full-text available
Article
Surveys and questionnaires are regularly used in studies of human–animal relationships. However, little attention has been given to understanding how survey participants are provided with instructions for the selection of a single animal within a multi-pet household, let alone the implications for reporting and interpreting data. We reviewed the instructions for the selection of an individual animal in studies addressing emotional or psychological attachment between people and dogs. By searching multidisciplinary journals from the year 2000 onwards, we identified a total of 128 papers, of which 63 met the inclusion criteria. Where selection criteria/instructions were not clear, authors were contacted. One in five studies (21%, or n = 13) did not report their instructions. When provided, instructions varied considerably. The most commonly provided direction was “favorite/closest relationship” (n = 12, or 19%). The remainder (n = 38, or 60%) were spread across eight different categories. Around half of the studies used a validated questionnaire that already contained an instruction, though a similar proportion of studies implemented author-designed instruments. Overall, the common absence and inconsistency of instructions for individual dog selection is taken to imply that there is no standard expectation or approach for instructions to be reported in studies of human relationships with dogs, or human–animal relationships more generally. We recommend further research on the implication of selection methods to ensure that instructions can be matched with specific research aims.
Full-text available
Article
The current paper analyses and establishes the legal and ethical framework for the development of canine-assisted therapies for short-term pediatric patients, at the facilities of the Consorci Sanitari of Terrassa. The conditions and proposals that assure the optimal development of the therapies are presented, guaranteeing the satisfaction of both the patients and the dogs involved in them. To this end, an in-depth literature review, mainly of a juridical, psychological and sociological nature, of various texts and disciplines related to the issue has been carried out. The experience of professionals and entities in the fields of animal-assisted therapies and veterinary medicine has also been considered, in order to provide an adequate understanding of concepts and the respective measures that have been taken.
Chapter
Plan du chapitre - Attachement et vieillissement - Évolution des styles d’attachement au troisième et quatrième âge - Attachement et bien-être chez les personnes âgées : un facteur protecteur - Les figures d’attachement chez le sujet âgé : une réorganisation - Les transformations du couple du fait de la maladie ou du décès du conjoint - Lien de caregiving entre l’enfant adulte et ses parents - Variations de genre et culturelles de l’attachement à la période de la vieillesse - Utilité du concept de l’attachement dans une perspective clinique - Conclusion - Références
Chapter
Almost my first awareness of my own identity was as a dog lover. I do not know how this came about. It almost feels as if my love of dogs was born with me. I was about five years old when I became fully aware of loving dogs. I mention this here, at the outset, because it seems remarkable to me now that over 50 years later, after I have built almost an entire career writing about social work practice and theory (and mostly not about dogs), that I am finally writing about how the two connect -dogs and social work.
Article
Homebound older adults are prone to depression, which is linked to systemic inflammation that promotes executive function decline. A companion animal may reduce the negative biobehavioral processes asso- ciated with depression, inflammation, and reduced executive function in homebound older adults. The primary aim of this study was to examine dif- ferences between homebound older adult pet owners and non-pet owners in depression, salivary C-reactive protein (CRP), and executive function. The secondary aim was to determine if the level of attachment to pets was as- sociated with depression, salivary CRP, and executive function. The study was cross-sectional and investigated homebound older adult pet owners and non-pet owners (n = 88) using psychometrically reliable and valid instru- ments (Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form and CLOX 1). Salivary CRP was assessed with immunoassay. Level of attachment to pets was measured using a Likert scale (0–10). Mean age for the total sample was 75 years (SD = 9). Forty-eight (55%) participants owned pets (56% dogs, 25% cats, 4% other pets, 15% both cats and dogs). Pet owners reported a high level of attachment to pets (Median = 10). Pet owners had significantly higher ex- ecutive function than non-pet owners (t = –2.07; p = 0.04) but there were no significant differences in executive function between cat owners and dog owners (t = 1.53; p = 0.14). Pet owners and non-pet owners were similar in depression (t = –1.80, p = 0.08) and salivary CRP levels (t = 0.27, p = 0.79). Level of attachment to pets was significantly and positively correlated with executive function (r = 0.30; p = 0.04) but was not significantly correlated with depression (r = 0.04, p = 0.77) or salivary CRP (r = –0.04, p = 0.80). Compared with non-pet owners, pet owners had better executive function but similar depression and salivary CRP levels. Reasons for these findings are unclear. Significant positive correlation be- tween pet attachment and executive function suggests further investigation in this area. Future studies with larger samples and a longitudinal design are needed to investigate the biobehavioral changes over time in relation to pet ownership, level of attachment to pets, and executive func- tion in homebound older adults.
Article
Pet therapy can be therapeutic for older adults living in the community. A crossover design was used to examine changes in blood pressure and heart rate before and after a pet therapy visit versus a volunteer-only visit in 28 community dwelling older adults. Relationships among stress, pet attitude, social support, and health status were also examined. Study findings supported that pet therapy significantly decreased blood pressure and heart rate. Ultimately, the findings supported the notion that community health nurses should consider developing and implementing pet therapy programs in the communities they serve. Further implications for community health nurses are discussed.
Full-text available
Article
The purpose of this article is to identify factors related to subjective well-being in the elderly. Structured interviews were conducted with 1073 white married women aged 65-75 living in Maryland in order to examine the role of pet ownership as an independent predictor of perceived happiness in elderly women. Controlling for sociodemographic, health status, and social interaction factors, the simple presence of pets in the households was not related to happiness. However, further multivariate analyses revealed that the relationship between pet ownership and happiness was complex, dependent upon the nature of the animal-human interaction as well as the social context in which the women lived. Preliminary findings indicate: (1) a larger percentage of women who are not very attached to their pets are unhappy, compared to women who are very attached to their pets or even those with no pets at all; and (2) the relationship between pet ownership and happiness is dependent on socioeconomic background, with pet ownership being associated with greater happiness among those of high SES but with less happiness among those of lower SES. The importance of specifying the conditions under which pet ownership is related to psychological well-being is emphasized.
Full-text available
Article
The presence of animals has been associated with decreased physiological responses to stressors. Not all individuals respond equally to the presence of friendly animals. The current study was designed to examine whether attitudes toward animals are related to individuals' physiological responses when an animal is present. The relationship of individuals' perceptions of animals to their blood pressure and heart rate responses during verbalization in the presence of a dog were examined among urban college students (n = 218). Lockwood's projective Animal Thematic Apperception Test (ATAT) was used to assess subjects' attitudes toward animals and people in scenes containing animals and identical scenes without animals. The significant period by perception interactions in analyses of variance with repeated measures revealed that cardiovascular responses to verbalization with an animal present were significantly lower for individuals who perceived scenes with animals more positively than for individuals who perceived scenes with animals present less positively. Cardiovascular responses when the dog was present were not related to perceptions of scenes without animals present. The differences in cardiovascular responses depended upon the scenes used. This study supports the view that how people perceive animals moderates their physiological responses to stressors when an animal is present.
Full-text available
Article
In order to examine pet ownership and pet attachment as factors supporting the health of the elderly, a national probability sample of Americans 65 years of age and older was drawn. Participants answered telephone survey questions regarding pet ownership, life stress, social support, depression, and recent illness. In multiple regression analyses, pet ownership failed to predict depression and illness behavior, while pet attachment significantly predicted depression but not illness experience. In a group with particularly great distress (the bereaved), pet ownership and strong attachment were significantly associated with less depression only when the number of available confidants was minimal.
Full-text available
Article
Autonomic responses were measured while 45 adult women performed a standard experimental stress task in the laboratory with only the experimenter present and 2 weeks later at home in the presence of a female friend, pet dog, or neither. Results demonstrated that autonomic reactivity was moderated by the presence of a companion, the nature of whom was critical to the size and direction of the effect. Ss in the friend condition exhibited higher physiological reactivity and poorer performance than subjects in the control and pet conditions. Ss in the pet condition showed less physiological reactivity during stressful tasks than Ss in the other conditions. The results are interpreted in terms of the degree to which friends and pets are perceived as evaluative during stressful task performance. Physiological reactivity was consistent across the laboratory and field settings.
Full-text available
Article
Models of the relations between contact with pets and better health are examined in an archival prospective study using data derived from the longitudinal study initiated by Terman in 1921 (current N = 343 men, 300 women). In survival analyses of documented longevity, playing with pets in 1977 (M age = 67 years) was not associated with mortality risk through 1991 for the total sample nor for those who were unmarried or those who were less satisfied with their human relationships. Playing with pets was not associated with health-prone attributes or healthy behaviors such as personality, social ties, education, and smoking.
Full-text available
Article
Relationships among loneliness, pet ownership, and attachment were studied in a sample of 148 adult female students, 59 pet owners and 89 nonowners. No significant differences were found on the loneliness reported by pet owners and nonowners. A two by two analysis of variance showed that women living entirely alone were significantly more lonely than those living with pets only, with both other people and pets, and with other people but without pets. No associations were found between loneliness and pet attachment. Also, no significant differences were found in loneliness or pet attachment scores between dog and cat owners; however, women living only with a dog were significantly more attached to the dog than those living with both a dog and other people. Conversely, women living only with a cat were significantly less attached to the cat than those living with both a cat and other people. These findings indicate that having a pet can help to diminish feelings of loneliness, particularly for women living alone, and compensate for the absence of human companionship.
Full-text available
Article
Casual conversations were recorded as elderly persons routinely walked their dogs through a familiar mobile home park in the United States. Control observations included walks without dogs by owners and non-owners of dogs. All owners talked to and about their dogs. Transcribed conversations indicated that dogs were a primary focus of conversation. A majority of sentences to dogs were imperatives; the owners were instructing the dogs. Dog owners frequently included dogs' names or nicknames in their sentences when they spoke to the dogs and made reference to the dogs' wishes or needs. Speaking to dogs was also associated with frequent repetition of sentences. Passersby talked to the owners about their dogs whether or not the dogs were present. When dog owners spoke with other people, their conversations often concerned activities that were occurring in the present, whereas conversations of non-owners focused on stories about past events. Dog owners reported taking twice as many daily walks as non-owners. Dog owners also reported significantly less dissatisfaction with their social, physical and emotional states.
Full-text available
Article
It is commonly assumed that owning a pet provides older residents in the community with health benefits including improved physical health and psychological well-being. It has also been reported that pet owners are lower on neuroticism and higher on extraversion compared with those without pets. However, findings of research on this topic have been mixed with a number of researchers reporting that, for older people, there is little or no health benefit associated with pet ownership. To identify health benefits associated with pet ownership and pet caring responsibilities in a large sample of older community-based residents. Using survey information provided by 2,551 individuals aged between 60 and 64 years, we compared the sociodemographic attributes, mental and physical health measures, and personality traits of pet owners and non-owners. For 78.8% of these participants, we were also able to compare the health services used, based on information obtained from the national insurer on the number of general practitioner (GP) visits they made over a 12-month period. Compared with non-owners, those with pets reported more depressive symptoms while female pet owners who were married also had poorer physical health. We found that caring for a pet was associated with negative health outcomes including more symptoms of depression, poorer physical health and higher rates of use of pain relief medication. No relationship was found between pet ownership and use of GP services. When we examined the personality traits of pet owners and carers, we found that men who cared for pets had higher extraversion scores. Our principal and unexpected finding, however, was that pet owners and carers reported higher levels of psychoticism as measured by the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. We conclude that pet ownership confers no health benefits for this age group. Instead, those with pets have poorer mental and physical health and use more pain relief medication. Further, our study suggests that those with pets are less conforming to social norms as indicated by their higher levels of psychoticism.
Full-text available
Article
The increase in aging populations has implications for the provision of health and social services. A preventative approach is taken to address this problem by examining a mechanism that can enhance physical health and reduce minor ailments. Participants in 10 focus groups discussed physical, psychological, and social benefits associated with human-dog interactions. Interaction between humans and dogs is a mechanism that can enhance the physical and psychological health of elderly citizens and promote a social support network between dog owners. In turn, dependence and impact on health and social services are alleviated. The social and community consequences of promoting dog ownership in the elderly are addressed, and it is concluded that the benefits of dog ownership should be promoted among the elderly and acknowledged by relevant agencies.
Article
The intent of this study was to determine if people who were highly attached to pets and /or nature would have higher levels of dissod-ation and absorption as measured by the Dissodative Experiences Scale (DES) and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS). Three hundred and five college students were given the DES, the TAS, the Pet Attachment Questionnaire (PAQ) and five questions devised to measure attachment to nature. Correlational analyses showed pet attachment was significantly correlated with both dissodation and absorption, while high nature attachment was significantly related to absorption but not significantly related to dissodation. Forty-one percent of subjects with high pet attachment had clinical levels of dissodation. As dissodation is often related to trauma, pet attachments may provide a compensatory relationship for people with histories of trauma. An attachment to nature may be indicative of seeking an experience of sensory absorption, but not a relationship.
Article
The CES-D scale is a short self-report scale designed to measure depressive symptomatology in the general population. The items of the scale are symptoms associated with depression which have been used in previously validated longer scales. The new scale was tested in household interview surveys and in psychiatric settings. It was found to have very high internal consistency and adequate test- retest repeatability. Validity was established by pat terns of correlations with other self-report measures, by correlations with clinical ratings of depression, and by relationships with other variables which support its construct validity. Reliability, validity, and factor structure were similar across a wide variety of demographic characteristics in the general population samples tested. The scale should be a useful tool for epidemiologic studies of de pression.
Article
This study examines the effect on the depression levels of 38 elderly males (Mean age=76y) exposed to an aviary at a Veterans Administration Medical Center adult day health care program. The research design was A1B1A2B2, with each phase (A=no treatment, B=treatment) constituting two weeks. Initial analysis uncovered no significant difference on the group's Geriatric Depression Index (GDI) scores associated with presence or absence of the aviary. A subsequent analysis of covariance on the difference between treatment and no-treatment depression scores indicated that utilization of the aviary by the men was significantly associated with reduced depression (N=38; F=7.48; df=1,36; p<.01), with greater reduction in depression associated with greater utilization of the aviary. Results from this study suggest that introduction of an aviary into the physical environment of elderly male day care participants may produce a reduction in depression among some men, possibly due to increased social interaction stimulated by the presence of the aviary.
Article
The present study sought to determine whether attachment to companion animals is significantly related to the physical and psychological well-being of older women. Network resources, network interactions, and perceived support available to the subjects were assessed and various health factors were measured for a sample of 53 elderly women. The average respondent was 73 years old and had one pet. Half were living alone. The women living alone were older, used more social services, and reported more doctor visits and use of over-the-counter medicines than did those living with others. While the sample is small for a multivariate study, a pilot analysis was undertaken. No relationship was found between pet attachment and feelings of depression, and pet variables had relatively little impact on psychological or physical wellbeing. The authors conclude that these data should not be interpreted as saying that pets are not important for some owners but that, even among this group of attached pet owners, there was not a strong enough effect of the pet to reach group significance. This group was a small, highly selected sample that may have been too homogeneous, and/or the self-report measures may lack the sensitivity to detect differences.
Article
This paper reports on the development and psychometric evaluation of a scale for assessing emotional attachment of individuals to their pets. Previous attachment scales have suffered variously from low internal consistency and reliance on small or nonrepresentative samples for their development. Telephone interviews of a random, representative sample of 412 pet owners in Fayette County, Kentucky, were completed in September 1990; a 69.5 percent response rate was achieved. From a preliminary set of 42 questions, a final 23-question instrument, the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), was developed, having excellent psychometric properties. The scale is suitable for use with dog and cat owners. Data on internal consistency, factor structure, and item response theory (IRT) modeling are presented, along with correlations between the LAPS and several domains of variables known to relate to pet attachment.
Article
Despite a growing literature on the apparent effects of companion animals on human cardiovascular health, surprisingly little is known about the effects of non-companion animals. This paper describes the result of an experiment that examined the reactions of human subjects to the presence of familiar juvenile chimpanzees. The results indicated that under some conditions (i.e. watching animals) humans show reduced blood pressure similar to that obtained when watching other species, but that under conditions of directly interacting with animals (i.e., touching them) cardiovascular patterns differ. The results indicate that separate mechanisms may be responsible for the stress-buffering effects of observing companion animals and of touching them. These mechanisms may be fruitfully studied by examining the effects of many species on humans in varied circumstances.
Article
A national study was conducted in the US examining pet caregivers who define themselves as either “owners,” “guardians” or “owner-guardians.” The purpose was to determine whether these groups differed in their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors with regard to companion animals. Random samplings of US households and clients of randomly selected veterinarians and animal clinics were surveyed about their attitudes and beliefs about their pets, their treatment of their pets, and about companion animals in general. The results suggest statistically significant differences between these groups with regard to the way they think about, and behave toward, their companion animals. It is unknown whether these differences result from the changes in mental constructs and language resulting from the Guardian Campaign, or whether they represent preexisting differences in attitudes.
Article
Objective: To examine the relationship between pet ownership and future health in older Australians. Method: A longitudinal study was conducted over 110 months in Dubbo, New South Wales, in a community-based sample of subjects 60 years and over (1,235 men and 1,570 women). There was a baseline survey of demographic, psychosocial and cardiovascular risk factors in 1988–89, with follow-up of all-causes mortality and hospitalisation. Results were modeled using multiple logistic regression. Results: At baseline, 52% of men and 42% of women owned a pet. In comparison with non-owners, older people who owned pets were younger and more likely to be married, yet they were less likely to live alone or use blood pressure medication. Among women only, pet owners had a greater peak expiratory flow volume than non-owners and were less likely to have physical disability. After controlling for the confounding effects of age and other factors likely to influence mortality, there was no significant relationship between pet ownership and all-causes mortality in either sex (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] in men 1.02 [0.75–137], in women 1.27 [0.93–1.75]). Pet ownership was associated with reduced risk of a hospitalisation in women (odds ratio 0.72 [0.54–0.96]). Conclusions: Pet ownership in older subjects is not associated with all-causes mortality. Female owners have a slightly reduced risk of hospitalisation.
Article
This experiment examined the effects of pet ownership and potential mediating (e.g., social support) and moderating variables (e.g., gender, personality, pet attachment) on completion of a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program. This experiment assessed pet ownership, personality, and psychosocial variables at the beginning of the program and followed participants through to completion. Results showed that pet owners (96.5%) were significantly more likely to complete cardiac rehabilitation compared with non-owners (79.2%). Covariance analyses ruled out several alternative explanations for the results, including social support, personality variables, personal efficacy, and pet attachment. Results suggest that having a pet may facilitate rehabilitation and that further research is needed to understand how having a pet or being a pet owner improves health outcomes.
Article
  In this article, I research the dyad between independence and dependence in pet companionship for the American elderly, and how elderly pet owners treat pets as a tool to enable them to balance the adherent norms between independence and dependence in order to navigate a successful later life. First, I explore individual life with pets: independent lifestyle with pets, emotional dependence on pets, management of pet loss, and limitation in pet responsibilities. Second, I discuss family and social life with pets: relationships with children, grandchildren and pets; husband–wife interactions and pets; and neighbors and pets. I examine these subjects through in-depth interviews with five middle-class Caucasian and Asian elderly pet owners who live in Los Angeles and San Diego, California, conducted in July 2005. Pets greatly help the elderly pet owners to maintain a balance between independence and dependence. Both an independent lifestyle and emotional dependence on their pets are formed through pet responsibilities. Some of the informants treated their pets as if they were their children. The others appeared emotionally dependent on memories of former pets, which provided the elderly pet owners with a sense of security and calm. The informants managed pet loss effectively by treating their pet as a tool upon which they conferred replaceable meanings or roles depending on their situation. The elderly pet owners also used their pets to facilitate family and social interactions. Having a pet is one important way that American elderly people can achieve subjective manipulation of later life.
Article
Objective: To examine the view that having a pet is good for the health and well-being of older people, particularly those who are socially isolated. Method: Benefits and disadvantages of owning a pet were explored in two studies. Data from the Health Status of Older People project were used to compare the health, health behaviours and well-being of those who owned and did not own pets. In addition, twenty older people were interviewed in-depth about pet ownership and its impact on their lives. Results: Few health or well-being outcomes were predicted by pet ownership. Having a pet did not compensate for social isolation. The qualitative data largely substantiate and provide possible explanations for the survey findings. Conclusion: Pets may have some limited value in promoting health and well-being in older people.
Article
The physician utilization behavior of 938 Medicare enrollees in a health maintenance organization was prospectively followed for 1 year. With demographic characteristics and health status at baseline controlled for, respondents who owned pets reported fewer doctor contacts over the 1-year period than respondents who did not own pets. Furthermore, pets seemed to help their owners in times of stress. The accumulation of prebaseline stressful life events was associated with increased doctor contacts during the study year for respondents without pets. This relationship did not emerge for pet owners. Owners of dogs, in particular, were buffered from the impact of stressful life events on physician utilization. Additional analyses showed that dog owners in comparison to owners of other pets spent more time with their pets and felt that their pets were more important to them. Thus, dogs more than other pets provided their owners with companionship and an object of attachment.
Article
Social support and pet ownership, a nonhuman form of social support, have both been associated with increased coronary artery disease survival. The independent effects of pet ownership, social support, disease severity, and other psychosocial factors on 1-year survival after acute myocardial infarction are examined prospectively. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial provided physiologic data on a group of post-myocardial infarction patients with asymptomatic ventricular arrhythmias. An ancillary study provided psychosocial data, including pet ownership, social support, recent life events, future life events, anxiety, depression, coronary prone behavior, and expression of anger. Subjects (n = 424) were randomly selected from patients attending participating Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial sites and completed baseline psychosocial questionnaires. One year survival data were obtained from 369 patients (87%), of whom 112 (30.4%) owned pets and 20 (5.4%) died. Logistic regression indicates that high social support (p < 0.068) and owning a pet (p = 0.085) tend to predict survival independent of physiologic severity and demographic and other psychosocial factors. Dog owners (n = 87, 1 died) are significantly less likely to die within 1 year than those who did not own dogs (n = 282, 19 died; p < 0.05); amount of social support is also an independent predictor of survival (p = 0.065). Both pet ownership and social support are significant predictors of survival, independent of the effects of the other psychosocial factors and physiologic status. These data confirm and extend previous findings relating pet ownership and social support to survival among patients with coronary artery disease.
Article
To determine whether pet ownership by elderly people is associated with lower use of health services. Survey of physical and mental health, and retrospective 12-month review of Medicare records of the number of general practitioner and specialist services. Elderly people living in Canberra (Australian Capital Territory) and Queanbeyan (New South Wales), surveyed in 1994 for the second stage of a larger longitudinal study. Elderly pet owners did not differ from non-owners on any of the physical or mental health measures or in use of health services. Given the high use of health services by older people, our findings suggest that the claim that pet ownership leads to savings in health services should be viewed with caution.
Article
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the presence of a companion animal on physiological arousal and behavioral distress exhibited by preschool children during a routine physical examination. A within-subject, time-series design was used to study 23 healthy children ages 3 years to 6 years during two physical examinations, with and without a dog. Statistically significant differences were found with greater reductions in subjects' systolic and mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress when the dog was present. Findings support the use of a companion animal in reducing stress experienced by children during a physical examination.
Article
To examine whether companion animals or attachment to a companion animal was associated with changes in physical and psychological health in older people and whether the relationships between physical and psychological health and human social networks were modified by the presence or absence of a companion animal. A 1-year longitudinal study with standardized telephone interview data collected at baseline and repeated at 1-year Wellington County, Ontario, Canada An age- and sex stratified random sample (baseline n = 1054; follow-up n = 995) of noninstitutionalized adults aged 65 and older (mean age = 73, SD +/- 6.3) Social Network Activity was measured using a family and non-family social support scale, participation in an organized social group, involvement in the affairs of the social group, the practice of confiding in others, feelings of loneliness, and the perceived presence of support in a crisis situation. Chronic conditions were measured as the current number of selected health problems. Pet ownership was assessed by the report of owning a dog or a cat and the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale score. Physical health was assessed as the ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Psychological health was measured as a summed score comprising the level of satisfaction regarding one's health, family and friend relationships, job, finances, life in general, overall happiness, and perceived mental health. Sociodemographic variables assessed include subject age, sex, marital status, living arrangements, education, household income, and major life events. Pet owners were younger, currently married or living with someone, and more physically active than non-pet owners. The ADL level of respondents who did not currently own pets deteriorated more on average (beta = -.270, P = .040) than that of respondents who currently owned pets after adjusting for other variables during the 1-year period. No statistically significant direct association was observed between pet ownership and change in psychological well-being (P > .100). However, pet ownership significantly modified the relationship between social support and the change in psychological well-being (P = .001) over a 1-year period. The results demonstrate the benefits of pet ownership in maintaining or slightly enhancing ADL levels of older people. However, a more complex relationship was observed between pet ownership and an older person's well-being.
Article
To test the claim that pet ownership reduces cardiovascular risk. Community survey. 2528 adults aged 40-44 years and 2551 aged 60-64 years who lived in the Australian Capital Territory and Queanbeyan, New South Wales, and were drawn randomly from the Australian electoral roll in 2000 and 2001. Sociodemographic measures, including pet ownership, and measures of physical health (including body mass index [BMI], alcohol and cigarette consumption, and levels of physical activity). Two readings of diastolic and systolic blood pressure were also taken. While pet owners and non-pet owners had similar levels of systolic blood pressure, those with pets had significantly higher diastolic blood pressure. Pet owners also had higher BMI and were more likely to smoke. While those with pets undertook more mild physical activity, they continued to have significantly higher diastolic blood pressure after controlling for hypertensive risk factors. In this study, we found no evidence that pet ownership per se is associated with cardiovascular health benefits. Rather, pet owners had higher diastolic blood pressure than those without pets. It is likely that this increased health risk is linked to other hypertensive risk factors that are only indirectly associated with pet ownership.
Article
A large longitudinal dataset on women's health in Australia provided the basis of analysis of potential positive health effects of living with a companion animal. Age, living arrangements, and housing all strongly related to both living with companion animals and health. Methodological problems in using data from observational studies to disentangle a potential association in the presence of substantial effects of demographic characteristics are highlighted. Our findings may help to explain some inconsistencies and contradictions in the literature about the health benefits of companion animals, as well as offer suggestions for ways to move forward in future investigations of human-pet relationships.
  • Jennings G. L. R.
  • Keil C. P.