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Pet Ownership, Other Domestic Relationships, and Satisfaction with Life among Seniors: Results from a Canadian National Survey

Authors:
  • Ministry of Agriculture, British Columbia, Canada

Abstract

Given unprecedented aging in the global population along with the physical and psychological challenges associated with aging, it is important to identify ways to protect and promote quality of life for seniors. Previous research has suggested that pet ownership may confer a variety of health and social benefits among seniors. The purpose of this analysis was to determine whether pet ownership was associated with satisfaction with life among Canadian seniors. Quantitative data were obtained from the Canadian Community Health Survey—Healthy Aging, a nationally representative survey of Canadians ≥ 45 years of age conducted between December 2008 and November 2009. Analyses were restricted to a subsample of 11,973 individuals ≥ 65 years of age, and multiple logistic regression was used to model the relationship between pet ownership and satisfaction with life while controlling for sociodemographic factors. The final model was stratified to detect interaction. Pet ownership was negatively correlated with satisfaction with life in the sample as a whole (AOR = 0.79, 95% CI = 0.72–0.87) and among those who were married, in common-law relationships, and/or lived with others, while no association was found among those who were widowed, single, or living alone. Among those who were both divorced and living alone, pet ownership demonstrated the potential for being associated with greater satisfaction with life (AOR = 1.24, 95% CI = 0.89–1.73). Overall, this analysis showed that the relationship between seniors and their pets is complex. Whether pet ownership correlates with satisfaction with life appears to depend on the presence and nature of other domestic relationships.
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... Still, some studies suggest that companion animals may have a mixed, null or even negative influence on older adults' health and well-being (Wells and Rodi, 2000;Parslow et al., 2005;Himsworth and Rock, 2013;Enmarker et al., 2015). Several researchers have suggested that the mixed findings reflect methodological diversity in approaches used to study human-animal relationships, compounded by the complexities of the relationships themselves (Morley and Fook, 2005;Fox, 2006;Franklin et al., 2007;Chur-Hansen et al., 2010;Himsworth and Rock, 2013;Putney, 2013;Rock and Degeling, 2013;Ryan and Ziebland, 2015). ...
... Still, some studies suggest that companion animals may have a mixed, null or even negative influence on older adults' health and well-being (Wells and Rodi, 2000;Parslow et al., 2005;Himsworth and Rock, 2013;Enmarker et al., 2015). Several researchers have suggested that the mixed findings reflect methodological diversity in approaches used to study human-animal relationships, compounded by the complexities of the relationships themselves (Morley and Fook, 2005;Fox, 2006;Franklin et al., 2007;Chur-Hansen et al., 2010;Himsworth and Rock, 2013;Putney, 2013;Rock and Degeling, 2013;Ryan and Ziebland, 2015). Notably, few studies have explored the influence of context, including social conditions and physical environments, on salient outcomes, given that relationships with pets are experienced in situ within communities where older adults are ageing-in-place. ...
... At the same time, a substantial and plausibly growing proportion of older adults' homes include a companion animal. Approximately one-third of older adults in Western countries report having a companion animal (Peak et al., 2012;Himsworth and Rock, 2013;McNicholas, 2014;Bennett et al., 2015), and pets are also becoming increasingly prevalent in non-Western countries (Headey et al., 2008;Hansen, 2013). In response to the aging of the population, many communities worldwide have begun to adopt and tailor an 'age-friendly' approach to promoting ageing-in-place. ...
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Over one-third of older adults in many countries have a companion animal, and pets may harbor health-promoting potential. Few studies have considered pet-ownership in relation to economic vulnerability, and pet-ownership has not been often considered within policy efforts to promote ageing-in-place. We conducted a mixed methods case study to understand perspectives of both community agencies that support ageing-in-place and older adults themselves. A shortage of affordable, appropriate pet-friendly housing emerged as a challenge, even when framed as a legitimate choice and preference for many older adults. In this manuscript, we share the trajectories of three economically vulnerable older adults whose affordable housing needs became entangled with commitments to pets. Guided by dialogical narrative methodology, we offer each narrative as a short vignette to (i) illustrate the extent to which older adults will practice 'more-than-human solidarity' for a pet, even when their own well-being is compromised as a result; and (ii) highlight incongruence between the underlying moral values that shape solidaristic practices of individuals versus solidaristic arrangements that shape affordable housing opportunities. We suggest that housing rules and legislation that disrupt, rather than confirm, more-than-human solidarity may render older adults susceptible to, rather than protected from, deteriorating physical, mental and social well-being. We propose that collective solidaristic practices must reflect and subsume the moral complexity of solidarity practiced by individuals, to enable fair and equitable ageing-in-place.
... While pets had an effect on the respondents' overall evaluation of their lives, they did not play a role in their evaluation of their dayto-day emotions (Bao & Schreer, 2016). A Canadian study with senior citizens found that pet attachment was negatively related to life satisfaction (Himsworth & Rock, 2013). Upon further investigation, a positive relationship was found between pet attachment and life satisfaction of the respondents who were divorced and living alone. ...
... The former studies mostly used adults who were young and single, while the samples in the current study and that of Mháistir (2013) comprised mostly of older adults who were married or partnered. In their total sample, Himsworth and Rock (2013) found that pet owners were associated with lower life satisfaction. However, among the adult participants who were both divorced and living alone, the pet owners were associated with significantly higher life satisfaction (Himsworth & Rock, 2013). ...
... In their total sample, Himsworth and Rock (2013) found that pet owners were associated with lower life satisfaction. However, among the adult participants who were both divorced and living alone, the pet owners were associated with significantly higher life satisfaction (Himsworth & Rock, 2013). The social support benefits provided by a partner might play a role in the lack of significant difference in perceived stress and life satisfaction between pet owners and non-pet owners. ...
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Pets are an important part of many pet owners’ lives, yet very little is known about this complex relationship within a South African context. Most of the research on pet attachment and pet ownership stems from developed countries such as the USA. The present study used an online survey to investigate whether pet attachment was related to perceived stress and life satisfaction in a sample of South Africans. Group differences in perceived stress and life satisfaction between pet owners and non-pet owners, between male and female pet owners, between White and Black pet owners, and between dog and cat owners were also explored. The survey was distributed via Facebook and electronic mail. It comprised of a demographic and pet ownership questionnaire, the Comfort from Companion Animal Scale (CCAS), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS). A total of 3,329 complete online responses were collected. The data were analyzed using Pearson’s correlations and independent t-tests. Results showed that pet attachment was not significantly related to pet owners’ perceived stress and life satisfaction. Female pet owners scored significantly higher on pet attachment than male pet owners, while White participants were significantly more attached to their pets than Black participants. Dog owners in this study were significantly more attached to their dogs, significantly more satisfied with their lives and had significantly less stress than cat owners. The results of the current study add to the body of knowledge on pet attachment, perceived stress, and life satisfaction in South Africa.
... These negative effects include, for example, increased depression, poorer physical health, 18 increased boredom and loneliness 19 and decreased life satisfaction. 20 Some studies have not observed any significant effects, for example, no effect of pet ownership on self-esteem and physical health, [21][22][23] life satisfaction, 3,21,[24][25][26] and depression and anxiety. 22 Hence, recent reviews have concluded that the effects of pets on owner depression 27 and chronic pain 28 are inconclusive. ...
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Despite the abundance of studies investigating the benefits of having a dog, the specific aspects of dog ownership that impacts human well-being are not well understood. This study used a qualitative approach to create a framework of the main dog-related activities perceived by Brazilian owners to impact their well-being and compared the findings with those of a similar study in England. Thirty-two Brazilian dog owners from the five regions of the country were remotely interviewed. The thematic analysis of the transcripts generated a total of 58 dog-related activities, organised into 13 themes. Most activities were reported to have a positive effect on participants’ well-being, accounting for 76.8% of the total number of mentions in the interviews. ‘Playing with dog’ and ‘Dog presence’ were the themes most frequently associated with positive well-being outcomes, whereas ‘Unwanted behaviours’ and ‘Failing to meet dog's needs’ were the most commonly associated with negative outcomes. The dog-related activities reported by Brazilian dog owners and the well-being outcomes linked to those activities were consistent with the previous British sample in the framework that emerged. These findings suggest reliability between the two methods used to gather data (remote interview versus focus group) and, most importantly, provide consistent cross-cultural evidence for how certain activities impact dog owner’s well-being.
... and 'emmeans' (v.1.6.1). The following participants' characteristics were included as covariates in the statistical models, as they could influence owners' well-being: age (continuous variable [35]), gender (female, male, non-binary [36]), country (UK, US, other [37]), living alone (yes/no [38]), on the autism spectrum (yes/no [39]), diagnosed or experiencing a mental health problem (yes/no [40]), and level of psychological closeness to the dog (1 to 7 [29]). Dogs' characteristics were also controlled in the models, as they might influence the performance of dog-related activities and/or human well-being (e.g., dog size can affect dog walking performance [41]): sex of the dog(s) (female, male, mixed-e.g., one female and one male in the household was coded as mixed), young dogunder one year old (yes/no), senior dog-10 years old or more (yes/no), reproductive status (intact, neutered/spayed, mixed-i.e., having both intact and neutered dogs in the household was coded as mixed), very small/small dog (yes/no), and very large/giant dog (yes/no). ...
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... Relating to psychological and social benefits, recent studies suggest that pet ownership may improve well-being, life satisfaction, and happiness, as well as decrease loneliness and social isolation, depressive symptoms, and anxiety [16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]. It may also increase levels of physical activity and/or walking of older adult pet owners [25][26][27][28][29]. ...
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Human–animal interactions may positively impact the health and well-being of older adults. Considering about one third of community-dwelling older adults report owning a pet, better understanding the benefits, challenges, and the role of pet ownership may help support the relationships between older adults and their pets. This case study aims to better understand the role of pet ownership in the daily lives of older adults and explore the benefits and the challenges of owning a pet for this population. Interviews were conducted with Violet, a 77-year-old dog owner and her healthcare provider. Qualitative data were analyzed by two evaluators and validated by the participants. Both participants agree that the benefits outweigh the challenges for both the older adult and her pet. The benefits and challenges were the following: Violet, taking care of her dog (Jack), (1) could provide Violet with a sense of safety and positively influence her mood; (2) may introduce a slight fall risk; (3) includes financial costs to consider. Ensuring Jack’s well-being is important for Violet and her dog benefits from Violet’s continual presence and care. The findings suggest that improving the fit between characteristics of the owner and their pet may support the meaningful role of pet ownership within the context of aging-in-place.
... Although not without problems, the SWB approach is relevant in the present context. SWB was previously adopted in studies related to companion animals (see e.g., Himsworth & Rock, 2013) but an economic analysis based on SWB is lacking. ...
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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.
... The evidence for the impact of a pet on life satisfaction is mixed. Himsworth and Rock (2013) found living with a pet was negatively associated with life satisfaction for adults ages 65 and older; however, individuals who lived alone and were divorced were more likely to experience a benefit from pet ownership than other demographic groups. Their study found no relationship between pet ownership and satisfaction for those who lived alone, were single, or widowed. ...
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... Examinations on the relationships between companion animal ownership and human well-being have been mainly conducted in countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States [14,15,21,24,[40][41][42][43], where companion animal ownership is more common, finding that attitudes towards animals are generally positive and there is a more fluid spatial boundary between human and non-human animals [44,45]. Hong Kong provides a unique context in the study of HAI, especially as it is anticipated that globally more people will live in cities, especially mega-cities, in the coming decades. ...
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