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Pet Ownership may Attenuate Loneliness Among Older Adult Primary Care Patients Who Live Alone

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  • University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

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Objectives: Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at increased risk for a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes, including early mortality. Identifying potential sources of social connectedness, such as pet ownership, could add to the understanding of how to promote health and well-being in older adults. The aim of this study is to describe the association of pet ownership and loneliness. Method: The current study utilizes cross-sectional survey data from a sample (N = 830) of older adult primary care patients (age ≥ 60 years). Results: Pet owners were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness, in a model controlling for age, living status (i.e., alone vs. not alone), happy mood, and seasonal residency (adjOR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.41-0.98, p < 0.05). An interaction was found between pet ownership and living status (b = -1.60, p < 0.001) in which living alone and not owning a pet was associated with the greatest odds of reporting feelings of loneliness. Conclusion: The findings suggest that pet ownership may confer benefits for well-being, including attenuating feelings of loneliness and its related sequelae, among older adults who live alone.
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... Pet ownership has also been associated with better executive and cognitive functioning (Branson et al., 2016;Friedmann et al., 2020). While the findings on the relationship between pet ownership and depression are mixed (Gee and Mueller, 2019), pet ownership can have a positive impact on mental health outcomes for those who are socially isolated or have experienced personal loss (Stanley et al., 2014;Carr et al., 2020). Pets can also facilitate interpersonal interactions and foster a sense of community (Wood et al., 2017;Carver et al., 2018). ...
... The benefits of pet ownership in older adulthood are welldocumented (e.g., Gee and Mueller, 2019;Obradović et al., 2020). The bond with a pet can be particularly valuable for older people who are socially isolated or living with physical, cognitive, or psychological challenges (Johansson et al., 2014;Stanley et al., 2014;Shell, 2015;Gan et al., 2019;Janevic et al., 2019;Opdebeeck et al., 2020;Young et al., 2020). These studies are largely based on self-reported outcomes. ...
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... In addition animals can directly provide social support (Allen, Blascovich, & Mendes, 2002;Allen, Shykoff, & Izzo, 2001;Enders-Slegers, 2000), reduce depression (Souter & Miller, 2007), The increased risk of isolation and loneliness in older adults has a profound impact on health and wellbeing, and is often associated with depression (McCall & Kintziger, 2013) and reduction in mobility and daily living activities (Perissinotto, Stijacic Cenzer, & Covinsky, 2012(. Living with a pet provides company and reduces feelings of loneliness (Stanley, Conwell, Van Orden, 2013). A study conducted in the Netherlands, claimed that independently living older adults (70-80 years old) reported feelings of attachment and emotional closeness as the most salient elements of their relationships with pets (Enders-Slegers, 2000). ...
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... Several studies support the idea that animals, mainly dogs, reduce feelings of loneliness and facilitate conversations and connections to others (e.g. Hajek & Konig, 2020;Stanley et al., 2014;Wood et al., 2015). However, there is also evidence that it may mainly be women who acquire a pet as a response to feelings of loneliness (Pikhartova et al., 2014). ...
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