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The Role of Pets in Enhancing Human Well-being: Effects for Older People

... Dog owners also showed increased levels of exercise and self-esteem. Hart (1995) describes the work of a PhD student (Chouinard, 1991) who reported studies indicating higher achievement scores and healthier self-ratings amongst adult pet-owners compared to those not keeping pets. In contrast to these positive findings, Stallones ef a/. ...
... Loss of a spouse is a m^or life event that is more hkely to occur in later hfe, and social isolation may be a consequence that further increases vulnerability to depression (Hart, 1995). Siegel (1993) reports on a study (Akiyama, 1986/7) that showed that women who had been recently widowed showed fewer physical and psychological symptoms of bereavement if they owned a pet, Further evidence for the positive biopsychosocial effects of pet ownership amongst suburban, communitydwelling elderly people is given by McBride ef a/. ...
Thesis
p>The effects of animal-assisted activities (AAA) on the behaviour of children and young adults with special needs have been recorded, and compared with the effects of similar activities that did not involve a live animal. With the exception of one study of children with Cerebral Palsy, all participants attended special schools, residential centres or day centres for those with severe learning disabilities, and several had been more specifically diagnosed as also suffering from autism or Down's syndrome. Several experimental designs were employed in order to establish the value of different methods of AAA and to assess possible influences of methodology on the detection of both general and individual-specific effects. In the first study interactive behaviours displayed during AAA were found to be qualitatively and quantitatively different when compared with other activities directed by the same adult. Specifically, the real dog increased appropriate responses and initiations about itself and reduced levels of ignoring the adult that was guiding activities compared to an imitation (toy) dog of similar appearance. In a second study cooperative behaviour during educational tasks was enhanced through dog involvement compared to standard educational tools, and the level of dog involvement was thought to be a factor in differences between activities. High levels of dog involvement were also found to encourage children with Cerebral Palsy to perform physical exercises, but the use of the dog as a reward was less effective. Five single-case research studies supported the findings of the first two studies, and provided additional information describing idiosyncratic reactions to AAA. Specific behaviours, identified as needing to be encouraged or reduced prior to the study were to a large extent successfully targeted through individually designed programmes. Some individuals appeared to benefit more than others; additionally withdrawal of dog sessions was identified as a potential source of stress for the participants. Cooperative and appropriate behaviour was enhanced for all participants and some problem behaviours (where apparent) were reduced. General effects of cooperation and responding to the adults directing the activities, were shown through increases in physical and/or communicative responses.</p
... 6 The degree to which a companion animal later influences a person's sense of well-being depends upon the person's relationship with pets earlier in life. 7 Research on humans and dogs indicates that this interspecies affiliative role involves an increase in the neurophysiologic correlates of oxytocin (a hormone involved in affection, maternal behavior, and empathy); beta-endorphin; prolactin; betaphenylethylamine; and dopamine in both species, with a concomitant decrease in levels of cortisol in humans after positive interactions with animals. 8 ...
... Animals provide needed tactile contact and a sense of identity for elderly people who have suffered losses of family, friends, professional affiliations, and functioning. 7 The presence of an animal facilitated social interaction and reduced agitation and aggression in patients with dementia. Watching fish in an aquarium stimulated residents to eat more and gain weight. ...
Article
This article examines the growing body of research that provides support for the many anecdotally reported health benefits resulting from the human-animal bond, including the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic pain; benefits for paediatric and elderly patients and for early detection of medical conditions. The risk of zoonotic infections are also discussed.
... Within this role, a dog can bring great pleasure to its owner, and studies have also attributed dog-ownership with a range of further benefits both physical (see Freidmann 1995) and psycho-social (see Hart 1995a). Interacting with a dog has been claimed to reduce blood pressure and anxiety and dog owners exhibit higher survival rates following coronary care than do non-owners (Freidmann 1995). ...
Thesis
p>Dog-human play was characterised as distinct from dog-dog play. Focal sampling of 402 dog walkers and a survey of 2585 dog owners revealed that dogs housed in multi-dog households played as frequently as did dogs in single-dog households, indicating that interspecific play is unlikely to be a substitute for intraspecific play. An experimental study of Labrador Retrievers showed that, when playing with another dog, dogs were more motivated to complete for possession of an object, but, when playing with a human, interaction was more important. 'Object-oriented play', defined as play involving two individuals responding to each other but centreing around an object , was shown to differ structurally from both social and object play. Two experimental studies of Labrador Retrievers showed that people can increase dogs' interest in a toy via their presence and by a protocol of rewards. The effects of different game types upon dog-human relationships were examined experimentally. A study of 30 Labrador Retrievers showed that repeated playing of some game types can affect dog-human relationships, but it detected no differences between dogs which won and lost at tug-of-war, contrary to claims in the popular literature. A further study using 14 Golden Retrievers detected an increase in 'Obedient attentiveness' towards an experimenter after play and also an increase in 'Demandingness'. However, whether dogs won or lost at tug-of-war only affected their 'Playful attention seeking' scores; after winning they scored higher than after losing. When playing with their dogs, dog owners were observed to use a wide variety of play signals of varying effectiveness. Two of these signals, 'Bow' and 'Lunge', were shown experimentally to instigate play between dog and person, and their efficiency was increased when they were accompanied by play vocalisations.</p
... For example, pet owners surveyed in one study were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness, even after controlling for age, living status, mood, and residency (Stanley et al., 2014). Despite these benefits, however, pet ownership may pose special challenges for older adults, including restrictions related to finances, mobility, transportation, and housing (Hart, 1995). Given these potential barriers, robotic pets, also known as social robots, offer a potentially ideal alternative to owning a live pet for older adults. ...
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Objective: The primary purpose of this study was to explore the efficacy of robotic pets in alleviating loneliness for older adults. Methods: Self-reported lonely individuals with AARP® Medicare Supplement plans insured by UnitedHealthcare who participated in a program with a robotic pet (n=20) were recruited to participate in semi-structured interviews. Participants were asked to provide feedback about their experiences interacting with a robotic pet, their perceptions about the potential impact on loneliness, and recommendations for improving the program. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Participants' responses were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Constant comparison and consensus-gaining processes were used to develop categories that later formed representative themes. Results: Seven themes emerged from analysis, Openness to Adoption of Robotic Pet, Reactions to Pet and its Attributes, Integration of Pet in Daily Life, Strategic Utilization and Forging New Connections, Deriving Comfort and Camaraderie, Advice for Future Users, Recommendations for Enhancing Ownership Experience. Participants living alone, with fewer social connections and less active lifestyles, derived the most benefit from interacting with their pets. Common responses to pets included cuddling, petting, grooming, and sleeping with them. Some shared or loaned their pets, while others refused to loan their pets to interested peers. Most reported showing their pets to others, which helped some facilitate communication and social connections. Conclusion: Robotic pets may be an effective solution for alleviating loneliness in older adults, especially among those who live alone, have fewer social connections and live less active lifestyles.
... Beck 2003; Barker and Barker 1988; Gavriele-Gold 2011), coupled with previous research highlighting the benefits of therapy dog programmes (e.g. Grajfoner et al. 2017;Hart 1995;Havener et al. 2001;Wood et al. 2018) and the positive results found within the current study, offer a natural pathway to incorporating therapy dogs as a low-risk, cost-effective way to support university students without the social stigma that is often attached to seeking help when overwhelmed with the stress of university. ...
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The psychological well-being of university students is a growing concern, both in the UK and globally. In light of emerging research on the benefits of therapy dogs for student well-being, this study compared the use of therapy dogs to more conventional methods for improving students’ well-being. Ninety-four university students were randomly assigned to one of three 30-minute treatment sessions: dog therapy, mindfulness, or the control group (the university’s standard treatment – a session with a student well-being advisor). All participants completed an anxiety and mood scale, both immediately before and after their allocated session. The results found that whilst all three groups showed a significant decrease in anxiety after their treatment, only the dog therapy and mindfulness groups’ showed anxiety levels that were at or below normal levels. Both groups also reported post-treatment anxiety levels which were significantly lower than those of the controls. Both groups also showed a significant improvement in mood after treatment, whereas the control group did not. The findings of this study therefore suggest that the use of therapy dogs is as effective as mindfulness in reducing students’ anxiety and improving their well-being. The implications and limitations of these findings are discussed further below.
... The human population is rapidly aging and expected to nearly double globally by the year 2050; the number of older people is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time in 2047 [9]. Most people over age 65 in the United States live independently [10], and estimates indicate that 14% of them have companion animals [11]. As individuals age, the benefits and importance of social support for the maintenance of both physical and emotional health may increase. ...
Article
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Background: We focused on human-animal interaction (HAI) as an important aspect of social functioning at the individual level, framing this emerging field from a public health perspective. Methods: Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) 2012 HAI module, we describe the characteristics of pet ownership in a population of older adults, and examine the relation between pet ownership and multiple mental and physical health indicators such as health status, depression, and physical activity. Results: Of the 1657 participants in our subsample, approximately half (51.5%) reported being pet owners; the majority owned dogs or cats, and most had only one pet. Pet ownership was significantly associated with a higher likelihood of ever having had depression, with pet owners being 1.89 times more likely to have experienced depression. However, pet ownership was not associated with having experienced depression within the last week. Conclusions: The findings from this study could indicate a relationship between pet ownership and depression, but it is impossible to determine the directionality of that relationship. It is possible that owning a pet may put a person at an increased risk of developing depression, or individuals who are at risk, or who have already developed depression, may acquire a pet as a way of managing their depressive symptoms. The findings of this study provide an initial step in contributing to our understanding of the relationship between companion animals and the social, physical, and mental well-being of the HRS study population. Future research should include measures of HAI in longitudinal, population-based surveys.
... In these programs, the inmates care for pets, fish, livestock and injured wild animals and train dogs for socially vulnerable people. Several studies have reported that such programs have physiological and psychosocial effects on inmates (Moneymaker and Strimple 1991;Fredrickson 1995;Harkrader et al. 2004;Fournier et al. 2007;Furst 2011), which support the general notion that companion animals contribute to physical and psychosocial health and well-being of humans (Endenburg and Baarda 1995;Friedmann 1995;Hart 1995). The effectiveness of dog-assisted interventions for people with mental disorders have been reported in places other than in prisons, such as for people with depression (Folse et al. 1994;Hoffmann et al. 2009), schizophrenic patients (Kovacs et al. 2006;Lang et al. 2010), patients with substance use disorders (Wesley et al. 2009), children with autism spectrum disorders (Redefer and Goodman 1989;Prothmann et al. 2009), and children with pervasive developmental disorders (Martin and Farnum 2002). ...
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Physiological effects of a dog-assisted, stress management and communication training program conducted in a prison were investigated by assessing salivary cortisol concentrations of prison inmates before and after the sessions. The program was conducted with groups of inmates with psychiatric and/or developmental disorders. In the program, male inmates interacted with trained pet dogs and their volunteer handlers. Inmates evaluated their mood states before and after each session by using a questionnaire. Moreover, handlers evaluated the quality of the interaction with inmates after each session. Results indicated that the inmates’ cortisol values in most cases decreased following their participation in the sessions. The inmates who demonstrated stress reduction by decreasing cortisol values were diagnosed only psychiatric disorders, were aware of their mood improvement, and were evaluated by the handlers as having interacted well during the sessions. This indicated the validity of psychiatrists’ diagnoses, inmates’ self-evaluation, and handlers’ evaluation of inmates. Also, inmates who experienced a medium mood without mood changes had decreased cortisol values. It is suggested that these results are useful for predicting and selecting inmates who are expected to obtain effects by participating in the program. Moreover, it is suggested that providing feedback to inmates about changes in their salivary cortisol levels could help them better understand their psychophysical state, which could result in more effective stress management.
... The socializing effects of animals are also important to elderly people who have lost friends and family members, especially if they have no children or employment to draw them into community activities (Hart, 1995). Nonetheless, Stallones et al. (1990) demonstrated that older owners highly attached to their pets also have less human social support. ...
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The goal of the present research is to investigate pet attachment and measure the connection between owner-pet attachment and interpersonal attachment characteristics of dog owners and cat owners, social support and loneliness. From a sample of 268 dog and 97 cat owners, significant differences on pet attachment appeared between pet owners’ gender, owners living location, kinds of pets and the length of ownership. The pedigree of pets influenced owner-pet attachment levels.
... Companion animals contribute to physical and psychosocial health and well-being in humans (Endenburg and Baarda 1995;Friedmann 1995;Hart 1995). Some prisons, primarily in Western countries, have animal-assisted programs as a part of vocational and social skills training. ...
Article
This study investigated the effects of a dog-assisted program for inmates in a prison for the first time in Japan. The program was conducted with groups of inmates with a variety of psychiatric and/or developmental disorders. The program was provided as training for stress management and communication. Male inmates interacted with trained pet dogs and their volunteer handlers in semi-structured group sessions. Questionnaire surveys were conducted regarding the mood states of the inmates and the handlers both before and after each session. The handlers also filled out an evaluation questionnaire about the sessions and inmates. The inmates and the handlers evaluated the sessions positively as a whole. The mood states of both the inmates and handlers generally improved after the sessions. The handlers also reported that the inmates’ interaction skills improved over time for the different diagnostic groups. The handlers considered not only the interactions with the inmates but also the welfare of their dogs to be important. The handlers’ evaluations about the inmates were positively related to the inmates’ moods.
Article
We observed a dog visitation program in a geriatric retirement home in Japan, to obtain quantitative data on the human–dog interactions. Seven volunteer handlers and seven adult pet dogs were divided into two groups. Each group visited the home on one of two activity days each month for 18 months. The program was conducted in a consistent way and the features of it did not change during the course of the study. Five to 12 senior residents, among a total of 31 (9 men and 22 women, 16 with normal/mild and 15 with moderate/severe disabilities in activities of daily living: ADL), voluntarily participated in each activity day. We focused on each dog as a target, using a focal animal sampling method, and monitored the seating arrangements of the residents. We found that both the residents and dog handlers contributed to the interaction. Affiliative physical contact was predominantly used as an interaction tool. Neither sex, ADL level, nor the rate of adjacent vacant seats affected the frequency of each resident's isolation. However, less disability in ADL and a higher rate of adjacent vacant seats facilitated more resident–dog interactions. The dogs more frequently initiated behavior toward female residents than toward males, but the sex of the residents was unrelated to the frequency of the dogs' receiving and reciprocating behaviors with the residents. Despite Japan being historically and culturally different from Western countries, the program worked well.
Article
Although pet interacters from a sample of 250 persons over 50 years of age generally report receiving more intense uplifts than hassles from their pets (Chi Square = 26.7, p<0.001), there are also differences seen within this group. More specifically, differences are seen in regard to relationships between reported hassles and uplifts from pets, and socializing, life situation, and gender. For example, pet interacters who report a great deal of uplift from pets also report doing things with friends more frequently than do interacters who report only slight uplift from pets (t=2.38, p<0.05). Importantly, pets also appear to serve different roles for female and for male pet interacters, and for pet interacters in different circumstances. Uplifts from pets are associated with leisure and lack of psychological pressure for females, but are related to hassles with social interactions, time, and money for males. Contrastingly, females who report hassles from pets report hassles in the areas of free time, money, and health, but uplifts from social interactions. Human interactions with pets frequently contribute to quality of life and these interactions merit further study.