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Depression, loneliness, and pet attachment in homebound older adult cat and dog owners

  • I.E.A.P./I.E.T., Inst. for applied Ethology and Animal Psychology


Background: Companion animals may reduce depression and loneliness in socially isolated homebound older adults. However, whether owning a cat or dog is more beneficial in this population remains unknown. Materials and Methods: Pet attachment and the levels of depressive symptoms and loneliness were examined in 39 homebound older adults who exclusively owned a cat(s) or a dog(s). Cat owners (n = 12) and dog owners (n=27) were assessed for depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form), loneliness (R-UCLA Loneliness Scale), and attachment to pets (Likert scale). Results: Cat owners reported significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than dog owners (t= 2.12; p = 0.04). There were no significant differences between cat owners and dog owners in regards to levels of loneliness (t = -0.83; p = 0.41). Both cat owners and dog owners reported a high level of attachment to pets (Median=10 of 10). Conclusions: Although this study provides preliminary evidence that owning a cat to which one is attached is associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms than owning a dog to which one is attached in homebound older adults, the findings should be replicated with longitudinal studies. Findings from such studies may assist homebound older adults in selecting either a cat or dog as a companion pet.
Journal of Mind and Medical Sciences
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Depression, loneliness, and pet aachment in
homebound older adult cat and dog owners
Sandy M. Branson
UTHealth School of Nursing;*7-:*6+:*7;87=<1<6,.-=
Lisa Boss
Stanley Cron
Dennis C. Turner
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Depression, loneliness, and pet aachment in homebound older adult cat
and dog owners
Cover Page Footnote
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J Mind Med Sci. 2017; 4(1): 38-48
doi: 10.22543/7674.41.P3848
Correspondence should be addressed to: Sandy Branson, UTHealth School of Nursing, Department of Nursing
Systems, 6901 Bertner Ave., Ste. 724, Houston TX 77030; email:
Research Article
Depression, loneliness, and pet attachment in
homebound older adult cat and dog owners
Sandy M. Branson1, Lisa Boss1, Stanley Cron1, Dennis C. Turner2
1UTHealth School of Nursing, Department of Nursing Systems, Houston, Texas
2Institute for Applied Ethology and Animal Psychology, Seestrasse 254. CH-8810 Horgen/ Switzerland
older adults, cat, depression, dog, loneliness, pet attachment
Branson SM. et al.
Multiple mental and physical comorbid health
conditions prevent homebound older adults from leaving
their homes (1). As such, homebound older adults are
socially isolated and at significant risk for loneliness and
depression (1, 2). While existing interventions promote
social integration and activities outside the home for
older adults, most homebound older adults are
functionally disabled, which limits their opportunity to
participate in activities outside the home. Although
human social support and companionship for socially
isolated older adults may be limited, companion pets
may reduce depression and loneliness by providing
nonhuman social support (3) and companionship (4) that
satisfies social needs (5). However, whether owning a
cat or dog is associated with less loneliness and
depression in this population remains unknown.
Depression and Pets
Depression is a serious mental illness associated
with physical and functional disability (6), increased
mortality (7) and formalized care placement (8). Major
depressive disorder is characterized by depressed mood
(feeling sad or empty), diminished interest or pleasure,
weight loss, sleep dysregulation, changes in appetite or
weight, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue,
feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt,
problems with concentration and/or thoughts of death
(9). Chronic medical conditions, multiple losses,
functional decline, and social isolation render
homebound older adults at risk for depression (10). As
such, approximately 13%-29% of homebound older
adults are diagnosed with depression (11, 12).
In a meta-analysis that included five studies, four of
which included dogs only, Souter and Miller concluded
that animal-assisted interventions were significantly
associated with reduced depressive symptoms with a
moderate level of effect (13). In a separate study,
researchers investigated the effects of cats on depression
and showed that the presence of a cat, as well as
interacting with a cat, reduced negative moods of
depression in a non-clinical, presumably healthy
population of adult cat owners but did not increase
“good moods” (14, 15, 16). To our knowledge, no
studies have compared homebound older adult cat
owners and dog owners in regards to depression, and
studies among older community-dwelling cat and dog
owners have reported mixed results.
In a secondary analysis of a study that examined
159 community-dwelling older womenin the United
States who were attached to their pets (17), dog owners
had significantly higher levels of depressed mood than
cat owners (18). Conversely, Enmarker, Helzén, Ekker,
and Berg investigated 12,093 rural-dwelling older adult
pet owners (men and women) in Norway who
participated in a population survey and found that cat
owners reported higher mean values of depression
symptoms than dog owners (19). In the Norway study,
older men who owned cats reported less depressive
symptoms than older women who owned cats, but this
same relationship was not found among dog owners.
Differences in study populations and study variables
make the U.S. and Norway studies difficult to compare.
The U.S. study included women with moderate to high
levels of pet attachment, whereas the Norway study
examined both genders and did not examine the impact
of pet attachment on depression outcomes. Disparate
findings between the two studies may suggest gender-
specific differences in depression outcomes among pet
owners, more specifically among cat owners. What
remains to be established is whether cat ownership or
dog ownership is associated with less depression in older
adults who are functionally disabled and unable to leave
Depression, Loneliness, Pet Attachment in Homebound Cat & Dog Owners
their homes and whether depression outcomes vary by
gender in this population.
Loneliness and Pets
Loneliness is characterized as an aversive
emotional state related to the perception of unfulfilled
intimate and social needs (20) that may emerge from a
lack of intimacy or companionship (21). Negative
implications of loneliness are extensive and are
associated with increased functional decline (22), an
increased number of physician visits (23), an increased
likelihood of formalized care placement (24), and a
greater risk for all-cause mortality (25). Owing to social
isolation and fewer emotional connections, homebound
older adults are at risk for loneliness (26, 27).
Peplau and Perlman suggested surrogate
relationships with pets may help older adults cope with
loneliness (20). Researchers investigatingolder adult
primary care patients found that pet owners reported less
loneliness than non-pet owners, and those living alone
without a pet had the greatest odds of reporting
loneliness (28). Gulick and Krause-Parello compared
levels of loneliness among older women who primarily
resided in senior living community settings or attended
senior community activities and found no statistically
significant differences in levels of loneliness between cat
owners and dog owners (18). However, whether owning
a cat or dog is associated with less loneliness in socially
isolated homebound older adults has not been explored.
Attachment to Pets
Companion pets provide compassion, pleasure, and
affection and respond with unconditional love (29).
People who are attached to their pets often consider their
pets significant family members (30). Affectional bonds
with pets are emotionally significant relationships
because pets are nonjudgmental members of social
networks that provide owners with feelings of being
cared for, beliefs that one is loved and valued, and the
sense of belonging to a reciprocal network (31, 32).
Although few studies have measured the impact of
pet attachment on loneliness and depression, Krause-
Parello found that the level of loneliness and the degree
of attachment to dogs and cats were significantly and
positively related in older women (17). The author
concluded that as loneliness increased for older women,
pet attachment also increased. In a secondary analysis of
the same study, pet attachment support mediated the
effects between loneliness and depressed mood. The
author concluded that support from a pet assisted older
community-dwelling women in coping with loneliness
and depressed mood (33). Thus, existing evidence
suggests the importance of evaluating pet attachment
when examining loneliness and depression in pet
Materials and Methods
The aim of the current cross-sectional study was to
compare differences in the levels of depressive
symptoms and loneliness and pet attachment between
homebound older adults who owned a cat(s) or dog(s).
Study Design
The current study was part of a larger cross-
sectional study (N=88) that compared homebound older
adult pet owners and non-pet owners (34). Because the
purpose of the current study was to determine whether a
cat or dog was more beneficial in terms of loneliness and
depression, the analysis of the current study included
participants who exclusively owned a dog(s) or cat(s)
but no other pets. Thirty-nine homebound older adult cat
owners (n=12) and dog owners (n=27) were compared
according to their levels of pet attachment, depressive
symptoms, and loneliness using self-report
questionnaires. Prior to data collection, the study was
approved by the university’s Committee for the
Protection of Human Subjects and granted exemption by
the university’s Animal Welfare Committee.
Branson SM. et al.
Sample and Setting
Homebound older adults who were enrolled in the
Meals on Wheels (MOW) Senior Nutrition Plan in a
rural county in the Southern United States were recruited
for voluntary participation in the parent study. MOW
recipients must be at least 60 years old and have a
functional disability that prevents them from leaving the
home (35). The inclusion and exclusion criteria for the
parent study were previously reported (34). Briefly, the
participants were MOW recipients who were able to
complete instruments in English, did not have a
neurodegenerative disease, and were not taking
hormones or corticosteroids.
Depressive symptoms were measured using the
GDS Short Form, a 15-item instrument designed to
screen for depressive symptoms (e.g., somatic
complaints, cognitive complaints, motivation, future/past
orientation, self-image, loss, agitation, obsessive traits,
and mood) in older adults (36). The GDS Short Form
has been used extensively in healthy and cognitively
impaired community-dwelling older adults. Scores range
from 0 to 15, and higher scores indicate more depressive
symptoms (36, 37). GDS Short Form scores greater than
5 indicate an optimal cutoff for the detection of major
depression, with a sensitivity of 71.8% and specificity of
78.2% in older adults receiving home health care when
compared with the gold standard assessment with the
Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (38). The
GDS Short Form is a reliable instrument, as
demonstrated by a Cronbach’s alpha of .81 in the current
Loneliness was measured with the R-UCLA, a
commonly used instrument measuring the frequency and
intensity of social isolation and dissatisfaction with
one’s social interactions (39). The questionnaire
comprises 10 positively worded items and 10 negatively
worded items. Scores range from 20 to 80, and higher
scores indicate higher levels of loneliness. The
instrument is considered reliable across various
populations (39), and in the current study, Cronbach’s
alpha was .89.
Attachment to companion pets was assessed by a 10-
point Likert scale, rather than one of the standard
multivariate pet attachment measures (e.g., the
Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale), because other
multivariate pet attachment scales have been criticized as
unreliable when comparing attachment levels between
dog owners and cat owners (40, 41). Participants were
asked to rate their attachment to their favorite cat or dog
from 0 to 10, with higher scores indicating a higher level
of attachment.
Data Collection
Participants were recruited via flyers delivered by
MOW volunteers with the daily home-delivered meal.
The flyer invited participants who met the inclusion
criteria to call the researchers directly and schedule an
appointment for informed consent and data collection.
The researchers met the participant at the participant’s
home, obtained informed consent, and subsequently
collected demographic and psychosocial data by self-
report from the participant. Participants were allowed to
have a spouse or other representative present during
consent and data collection and were allowed to re-
schedule data collection if necessary. A $10 incentive
was provided for participation.
Data Analysis
Descriptive statistics were computed for
demographic variables by group (cat ownership/dog
ownership). An exact version of the chi-squared (χ2) test
was used to account for the small sample size and
examine statistical differences between groups for
categorical demographic data. A t-test for independent
samples was conducted to test differences in outcomes
Depression, Loneliness, Pet Attachment in Homebound Cat & Dog Owners
between cat owners and dog owners. A multiple linear
regression model was used to compare depression by pet
type and gender and determine whether the difference by
pet type varies by gender using the interaction term (Pet
Type X Gender). Assumptions of the respective
statistical tests were met. Statistical analyses were
conducted using SAS 9.4 for Windows, and an alpha
level of ≤ 0.05 was considered significant.
Characteristics of the Sample
The mean age of the total sample was 76 +/- 9
years, ranging from 62 to 95 years (72% female, 100%
white, 41% married, and 59% widowed, divorced or
single). As shown in Table 1, no statistically significant
differences were found between dog owners and cat
owners in age, gender, marital status, and education
Depressive Symptoms, Loneliness, and Attachment
to Pets
Cat owners reported significantly fewer depressive
symptoms than dog owners (Table 2; t= 2.12; p = 0.04).
No significant difference was found between cat owners
and dog owners in loneliness (t = -0.83; p = 0.41) or
attachment to pets (t = -0.21, p = 0.84). Table 3 shows
descriptive statistics by gender for each type of pet
owned, with depression (GDS-SF scores) as the outcome
variable. Among cat owners, the men had a lower mean
depression score than the women. As noted in Table 4,
the multiple linear regression model indicated a
significant difference in depression score by pet type (p
= 0.04), but not by gender (p = 0.31). In addition, the
interaction term (Pet Type X Gender) was not
statistically significant (p = 0.26), which indicates the
difference in depression scores by the type of pet owned
did not vary significantly between men and women.
Table 1. Characteristics of cat and dog owners (N = 39).
Cat Owners
n=12 (22%)
M (SD)
n (%)
Dog Owners
n=27 (78%)
M (SD)
n (%)
t Value or
p value
Age (years)
77.67 (9.35)
74.63 (8.35)
- 1.01
5 (42%)
6 (22%)
7 (58%)
21 (78%)
Marital status
4 (33%)
12 (44%)
Widowed, Divorced, Single
8 (67%)
15 (56%)
Education (years)
11.58 (2.02)
12.07 (2.13)
Note: SD = Standard deviation, M = Mean.
Branson SM. et al.
Table 2. Differences between cat and dog owners in depression and loneliness (N=39)
Cat Owners
N=12 (22%)
Dog Owners
N=27 (78%)
t Value
p value
Effect size
(Cohen’s d)
3.33 (2.84)
5.72 (3.40)
Loneliness (R-
43.17 (9.86)
39.71 (12.87)
- 0.83
Pet Attachment
(Likert Scale)
9.38 (1.23)
9.24 (2.05)
Note:GDS-SF = Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form, R-UCLA = Revised University of California
Los Angeles Loneliness Scale
Table 3. Descriptive statistics by gender for each type of pet owned with depression (GDS-SF
scores) as the outcome variable (N=39)
Pet Type
Std. Dev
Dog Owner
Cat Owner
Table 4. Results from multiple linear regression model that compares depression (GDS-SF) by pet
type (cat or dog owner) and gender (N=39)
Mean Square
F Value
Pr > F
Pet Type (Cat or Dog Owner)
Pet Type X Gender
Despite our small sample of homebound older
adults, significant differences were found in the level of
depressive symptoms between cat and dog owners, with
cat owners reporting fewer depressive symptoms. Our
findings agree with those reported by Gulick and
Krause-Parello, who found the level of depressive
symptoms between attached cat owners and dog owners
were significantly different, with cat owners reporting
lower levels of depressed mood than dog owners (18).
Although the reasons for why older adults in both
studies who owned cats had lower depressive symptoms
Depression, Loneliness, Pet Attachment in Homebound Cat & Dog Owners
than those who owned dogs are not clear, one plausible
explanation is that cats are independent, which renders
them low maintenance, and thus provide great pleasure
and feelings of worthiness. For example, a cat does not
require training and exercise, factors that may make cat
ownership more emotionally satisfying and less
physically demanding than dog ownership for older
adults, especially for those who are disabled.
Alternatively, however, it is possible that older adults
with more depressive symptoms seek out dogs (who tend
to be naturally social), more so than cats (who tend to be
less social), to be more socially engaged and deal with
depressive symptoms.
Our finding that cat owners reported less depressive
symptoms than dog owners contradict findings from the
Norway population study, in which cat owners reported
higher levels of depression symptoms than dog owners
(19). However, both studies were similar in that men
who owned cats (but not dog owners) reported less
depressive symptoms than women who owned cats. Our
study lacked statistical significance that would indicate
that the difference in depression scores by the type of pet
varied between men and women; however, the lack of a
statistically significant difference in our study was due in
part to the small sample size, which reduced the power
of the interaction term. As such, future studies that
evaluate the impact of gender on depression outcomes
are needed, specifically among cat owners.
Although differences and similarities were found
between the Norway study and our study, comparing the
findings is difficult because participants in our study
were functionally disabled older adults who were mostly
women, whereas participants in the Norway study were
from the general population (functional limitations were
not reported) with similar representations of men and
women. Given inconsistent findings between the two
studies on depression outcomes between cat and dog
owners, further exploration is needed that investigates
differential emotional responses to pets that may vary
according to an older person’s gender, functional ability,
and living situation.
Pet attachment provides mutual pleasure and a
source of emotional support (42). Attachment figures
that provide attachment relationships are needed
throughout all phases of life; however, attachment
relationships may be limited for older adults owing to a
loss of family members and friends (43). The high level
of attachment to both cats and dogs in our study suggests
the importance of having a pet, regardless of the type of
pet, in an isolated and vulnerable homebound older adult
population. Additional studies are needed to compare
our findings with other homebound older adults. We
used a 0-10 visual analog scale to assess pet attachment
to minimize the potential pet species-specific bias on
existing scales (41). However, the reliability and validity
of using a visual analog scale needs to be further
Scores on the R-UCLA Loneliness Scale indicated
a moderate level of loneliness in both cat and dog
owners with no significant differences between the types
of pet owners. However, our study had a small sample,
which limited the likelihood of finding differences in
levels of loneliness. Weiss (described social loneliness
as a lack of social integration; owning cats and dogs may
not improve social integration for homebound older
adults but may decrease emotional loneliness by
improving attachment relationships (44). The R-UCLA
Loneliness Scale that was used in the current study is
considered a unidimensional measure of loneliness and
may have limited the capacity to assess the different
aspects of loneliness (45, 46). Another instrument, the
De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale, may have been a
Branson SM. et al.
more sensitive instrument to determine differences
between pet-attachment relationships of cat and dog
owners owing to the instrument’s multidimensional
design that measures both social and emotional
typologies of loneliness (47).
Our sample was small and comprised primarily
white women who lived in a rural setting; thus, the
findings may not be generalizable to other homebound
older adults who own cats or dogs. Because of our small
sample size, the probability of finding a difference in
depressive and loneliness symptoms between cat owners
and dog owners when one exists in the population (i.e.,
power) was small. A small sample increases the
probability of type II error, or not finding a difference in
depressive symptoms when one exists in the population.
Although the GDS Short Form is considered a screening
tool for depressive symptoms and not diagnostic of
depression, cat owners reported levels of depressive
symptoms that were below the recommended level to
detect major depression. In comparison, dog owners
reported levels of depressive symptoms equivalent to
major depression (38). However, the level of depressive
symptoms for dog owners was minimally above the
cutoff score of > 5 to detect major depression. Thus,
differences in depressive symptoms between cat and dog
owners should be interpreted with precaution. Owing to
the cross-sectional methodology, fewer depressive
symptoms reported by cat owners when compared with
dog owners may be unrelated to owning a pet and may
be related to other factors. Additionally, whether the
relationship between cat ownership and few depressive
symptoms is causal or whether pet owners with
depression seek out dogs to alleviate depressive
symptoms is unknown.
Considering that up to 29% of homebound older
adults have major depression (11) and that cat ownership
was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, our
results have potential implications for the choice of pet
and potential benefits of cat ownership in homebound
older adults. Given the high prevalence of depression in
homebound older adults and the association of
depression with poor physical and mental health, cat
ownership may be beneficial for homebound older adults
(6-8, 48, 49). Programs that match older cats with older
adults may need to be considered for potential mental
health benefits in homebound older adults (50, 51).
Although this study provides preliminary evidence
that owning a cat to which one is attached is associated
with fewer depressive symptoms than owning a dog to
which one is attached in homebound older adults, the
findings should be replicated with longitudinal studies.
Future studies need to establish whether owning a cat
decreases depression and, if so, how cats alleviate
depression in homebound older adults. Likewise, future
studies need to establish whether homebound older
adults with depression select dogs as pets and, if so,
determine whether dogs assist homebound older adults
in dealing with depression. Findings from such studies
may assist homebound older adults in selecting either a
cat or dog as a companion pet.
We would like to posthumously acknowledge Dr.
Duck-Hee Kang who contributed to the conceptual
design of this study and the writing of the final
manuscript. We are grateful to the Meals on Wheels
Society of America for their participation. Funding for
this study was supported by the University of Texas
Health Science Center School of Nursing's Dean
Research Award funds.
Depression, Loneliness, Pet Attachment in Homebound Cat & Dog Owners
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... But, nowadays, the idea of an independent feline with a complete sense of the world is outdated. Branson et al. (2017) measured how the intensity of social isolation affected the feeling of loneliness and found that cat-tutors presented a more positive outcome than dog-tutors. Although they did not discuss the possible reasons for this pattern, the explanation could be the intrinsic animal nature. ...
... Although they did not discuss the possible reasons for this pattern, the explanation could be the intrinsic animal nature. Feline personalities are not attributable or comparable to humans but are consistent and present variable temperaments (Wynne and Udell, 2013) When an affective bond is formed, the animal behaves to promote closeness (Gosling , 2008;Carr et al., 2019 ;Branson et al., 2017). However, cats can establish this connection by keeping both parties comfortable with aloneness. ...
Historically, domestic cats had different roles in societies based on different beliefs, which have shaped their relationships with humans over the years. Although these animals have conquered their space in modern society as companion animals, little is known about the species' inherent behaviours and preferences. Our main goal is to present an integrative literature review to understand the psychosomatic effects of the coexistence between humans and the domestic cat (Felis catus) in the communal space, especially considering mental health as a critical survival component. The study analysed feline behaviour, cognitive capacity, the establishment of emotional bonds with tutors, and the influence of this relationship on family composition. The results demonstrated the cat’s ability in communicating, understand the surrounding environment, and develop unique cat-human bounds. Despite the perception concerning the cat’s preference for solitude, domestic cats seek animal or human companionship out of necessity or affinity. Our results showed that this bond, initially seen as practical, led to a human-cat emotional rapprochement that can improve human mental well-being and become relief from social isolation demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The subtle feline communication through sensory characteristics such as caressing fur and the sound of a cat purring reinforces the benefits of inquiring and understanding mutual communication. Although it does not represent a medical treatment and should not be used for this purpose, their company is positive, appreciated, and related to the increase of happiness or decrease of the anxiety, improving human well-being.
... Raziskavo so pozneje razširili (23) (28). V drugi raziskavi (30) so ugotavljali vpliv vrste živali na občutke osamljenosti in depresijo pri starostnikih. Najpogostejši vrsti hišnih živali sta bili pes in mačka. ...
... To ni veljalo tudi za osamljenost, ki se med lastniki mačk in psov ni razlikovala. Iz raziskave ni mogoče ugotoviti, ali mačke preprečujejo depresijo oziroma ali se depresivni ljudje pogosteje odločajo za psa (30). Med drugim so raziskovali tudi vpliv živali na starejše (nad 50 let) istospolno, biseksualno ali transseksualno usmerjene posameznike. ...
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Introduction: The presence of a pet can affect a variety of areas in human physical and mental health, such as social support, loneliness, increased physical activity and many others. Animal creates a non-judgmental environment for people, which we can use for therapeutic purposes, too. There is little Slovenian literature on this subject. This article examines pet impact on mental and physical health, social factors and possible existence of various demographic and socio-economic differences between pet owners and nonowners that could have an impact on health. Methods: We examined the relevant literature using PRISMA methodology. We used freely available literature in English, accessible in PubMed and Web of Science databases, published between 2010 and 2018. Results: 22 articles were included in the review, covering pets impact on health of children, adults and older people and people with health problems. 14 studies considered dogs as the studied animal. Discussion: Animals have great impact on emotions, concentration, behavior, physical activity and social support of children. Animal influence reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases, increases physical activity and also has a positive impact on managment of diabetes in children. Animals represent the starting point for conversation, enlarge social network, create better opinion of the neighborhood, decrease anxiety and depression in older people. In physically disabled people, their motor abilities are improved. Symptoms decreased and self-esteem increased in patients with mental problems. Differences in gender and age are rarely researched. Socio-economic status is not discussed. Conclusion: Animals can positively affect various aspects of human health. Only two studies deal wiht the differences between individual groups devided by gender, while differences in age and gender are not addressed. It is important to study the effects of the animals on health, while future focus should be on socio-demographic variables.
... Of the two longitudinal studies examining the impact of pet acquisition on mental health, one using the 30-item General Health Questionnaire obtained a positive result (Serpell, 1991), whereas the other using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6) did not (Powell et al., 2019). 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). ...
... Studies of pet ownership and mental health have targeted various populations, such as the elderly (Branson et al., 2017;Enmarker et al., 2015;Gulick and Krause-Parello, 2012;Ikeuchi et al., 2021;Purewal et al., 2019;Raina et al., 1999), people living alone (Antonacopoulos and Pychyl, 2010;Zasloff and Kidd, 1994), the homeless (Lem et al., 2016), and the general population (Cline, 2010;Lass-Hennemann et al., 2020;Wood et al., 2005). However, to our knowledge, only a few studies have focused on the association during pregnancy (e.g., Lynch et al., 2014). ...
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.
... In our study, depression, anxiety, and quality of life were found to be similar when compared according to the type of pet. There are different results in the literature on this subject, and there are studies reporting that cat owners have significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than dog owners (19). In another study, it was found that the rates of depression in cat owners were higher than in dog owners and those who did not have pets (8). ...
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Objective: In this study, it was aimed to compare pet owners and non-pet owners in terms of depression, anxiety and quality of life. Methods: A total of 397 healthy volunteers over the age of 18, 192 pet owners, and 205 non-pet owners were included in our study. Sociodemographic data form, World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale-Short Form (SF-36), and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) were administered to all participants. Results: Of all participants, 60.2% (n=239) were female and 39.8% (n=158) were male. The mean age of pet owners (36.74±9.56) was similar to non-pet owners (35.52±9.16) (p=0.194). The mean depression scores of pet owners (4.39±3.37) were significantly lower than non-pet owners (6.02±3.72) (p
... Despite criticism of their potential ecological impact, cats have surpassed dogs in pet popularity (Canadian Animal Health Institute, 2021), with Canadians owning approximately 8.1 million cats and 38% of Canadian households include at least one cat (Canadian Animal Health Institute, 2021). Cat ownership can offer personal and societal benefits (as emotional assistance animals, offering mental, physical and emotional health benefits) (Branson, Boss, Cron, & Turner, 2017;Crowell-Davis, 2008;Fox, 2006;Staats, Wallace, & Anderson, 2008;Virues-Ortega & Buela-Casal, 2006). Yet despite their popularity, cats are also more likely than dogs to be abused, abandoned and neglected (Humane Canada, 2017). ...
Domestic cats (Felis catus) face contradictory public perceptions. In 2019, we examined public perceptions toward cats within the City of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, using an online survey (1,464 responses) to assess perceptions toward free-roaming cats and the use of bylaws to address concerns. Perceptions were dependent on cat-ownership status; a majority of non-cat and former owners were concerned about free-roaming cats, current cat owners less so. There was considerable support for mandatory identification. Cat owners were not supportive of bylaws restricting free-roaming of cats, although this was supported by non-owners. Concerns include the negative impact on caring for a pet cat, and the fear that such bylaws would increase abandonment. Cat owners were not enthusiastic about fines for roaming cats, while non-cat owners were. There was considerable concern around including neutering cats as part of planned cat management. Our research also found nuanced concern for the impacts of management on impoverished owners, the welfare of cats and a recognition that it was the humans, rather than the cats, who should be the focus of active and thoughtful intervention.
... Recent meta-analyses found dog ownership to be associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality, as compared with non-ownership (Kramer et al., 2019), and that pet ownership is associated with lower adjusted cardiovascular disease risk in patients with established cardiovascular maladies (Yeh et al., 2019). There is also evidence that pet ownership is associated with mental health benefits (e.g., Bao & Schreer, 2016;Bolstad et al., 2021;Branson et al., 2017) and that bondedness to pets may be related to family functioning (Cox, 1993;Walsh 2009aWalsh , 2009b and may be important in domestic violence and battered partners' decisions about leaving an abusive relationship (Cleary et al., 2021;Faver & Strand, 2003;Newberry, 2017;Strand & Faver, 2005;Newberry, 2016). ...
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A significant percentage of US households have at least one pet. A recent poll found that over 90% of pet owners feel their pet is a family member, suggesting the definition of “family” should include pets. Some studies have found that pet ownership has physical, mental, and social health benefits for the owner, although other research has not found this. It is thought this variability is due to methodological issues. A significant issue identified is measurement problems, including a lack of validity and reliability evidence. Measurement equivalence is an important type of this evidence, and Black/African Americans should be included in research on this as they are an understudied, historically marginalized population. The Family Bondedness Scale (FBS) is a recently developed measure of the degree to which a pet owner feels emotionally bonded to their pet in a manner comparable to their emotional bonding with a human member of their family. This paper describes a measurement equivalence study of the FBS between Black/African American (n = 496) and White (n = 405) pet-owning populations. Results of multi-group confirmatory factor analyses with covariates were consistent with configural, metric, and threshold equivalence between Black/African American and White pet owners. The use of this measure in research and professional practice for numerous professions, including veterinary medicine, social work, veterinary social work, psychology, and other professions is considered. Implications for future measurement equivalence and validity research on scores from the FBS are also discussed.
... In other words, pet caregivers feel less lonely than those without pets, and their interpersonal relationships become more active [8]. It has also been reported that elderly people living with pets experience less depression than those who do not [9]. Through these results, we found that relationships with pets play an important role in raising positive emotions. ...
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The declining fertility rate and an aging population have accelerated the number of single-person households and nuclear families, and the number of households raising pets has naturally increased. However, pet owners experience great sorrow and trauma due to the death of their pets. The stronger the attachment to pets, the more severe the separation pain caused by pet loss. The purpose of this study was to analyze the moderating effect of a cognitive emotion regulation strategy mediated through separation pain on the relationship between attachment and post-traumatic growth after pet loss among owners. The study participants were 303 owners who have experienced pet loss. We analyzed the mediated moderating effects by PROCESS macro. The results showed that the adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategy strengthened the effect of attachment to pets on post-traumatic growth and decreased the effect on separation pain. Conversely, the maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategy weakened the effect of attachment to pets on post-traumatic growth and strengthened the effect on separation pain. The act of intentionally expanding the perspective on pet loss experience, switching into a more positive focus, and accepting reality will reduce the grief of its companions and become an opportunity for growth.
... Relatedly, many people in need of social support lack strong family relationships and don't desire to have children, and, in these cases, companion animals play an important role of family (Wisdom et al., 2009). Indeed, companion animals are an important source of emotional support for victims of domestic abuse (Flynn, 2000), neglected children (Barlow et al., 2012) 16 , children with insecure attachment styles (Beetz et al., 2011), the homeless (Irvine, 2013), nursing home residents (Gammonley & Yates, 1991), the mentally ill (Wisdom et al., 2009), and the socially isolated (Branson et al., 2017). Companion animals thus can redeem the most vulnerable people, who often find themselves alone or in dis-valuable human-human relationships. ...
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Those who claim to be committed to the moral equality of animals don’t always act as if they think all animals are equal. For instance, many animal liberationists spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year on food, toys, and medical care for their companion animals. Surely, more animals would be helped if the money spent on companion animals were donated to farmed animal protection organizations. Moreover, many animal liberationists feed their companion animals the flesh of farmed animals, and some let their cats roam outdoors, foreseeing that they will kill wildlife. Maybe these companion-animal loving animal liberationists are moral hypocrites. Or maybe their behavior is justified. I defend the latter claim. By developing an ethic that emphasizes the moral significance of life-meaning and recognizes the important role that companion animals play in giving meaning to human lives, I argue that there are stringent side-constraints that apply to companion animals, but not to other animals. Consequently, it isn’t hypocritical to prioritize companion animals over other animals. We can have (and value) our carnivorous companions and be animal liberationists too.
The chapter explores demographic aging data in Europe and the world, but more precisely in Portugal. A gradual increase in seniors and a reduction in youth characterize demographic evolution. In the chapter, the factors leading to these phenomena will be identified and duly explained, as well as the responses developed for their effect. One of the objectives is to identify solutions and answers for healthy and stimulated aging at institutions and professional areas, such as sociocultural animation. Despite several designations worldwide, its purpose is the same: to provide moments of leisure, stimulation, and learning to the entire population. In this sense, lifelong learning is a concept to be explored.
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Mental disorders are an important public health issue. Computational methods have the potential to aid with the detection of risky behaviors online, through extracting information from social media in order to detect users at risk of developing mental disorders. In this domain, understanding the behavior of the computational models used is crucial. Exploring the explainability of neural network models for mental disorder detection can make their decisions more reliable and easier to trust, and can help identify specific patterns in the data which are indicative of mental disorders. We present our attempts at predicting mental disorders in social media. We focus on depression detection and build models to detect users suffering from depression in multiple social media datasets, and additionally include experiments attempting to detect post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) users from similar social media data. We use approaches that combine deep learning with linguistic features including the emotions expressed and stylometry features. We continue with an in-depth analysis of the results and findings through different explainability techniques used to interpret the deep learning model’s behavior, including feature analysis, hidden layer analysis and ablation studies. We include psychological interpretations for all our findings. We additionally collect a new multimodal dataset: multiRedditDep, consisting of social media data including texts and images posted by depressed users, and present our attempts at automatically discovering signs of depression in a multimodal setting. We include an in-depth analysis of the content of images posted by depressed users based on a semantic taxonomy of objects depicted in the images. We finalize by proposing directions for the future including approaches for depression detection based on conversational data.
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In this study, the authors tested the relation between loneliness and subsequent admission to a nursing home over a 4-year time period in a sample of approximately 3,000 rural older Iowans. Higher levels of loneliness were found to increase the likelihood of nursing home admission and to decrease the time until nursing home admission. The influence of extremely high loneliness on nursing home admission remained statistically significant after controlling for other variables, such as age, education: income, mental status. physical health, morale, and social contact, that were also predictive of nursing horne admission, Several mechanisms are proposed to explain the link between extreme loneliness and nursing home admission. These include loneliness as a precipitant of declines in mental and physical health and nursing home placement as a strategy to gain social contact with others. Implications for preventative interventions are discussed.
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The development of an adequate assessment instrument is a necessary prerequisite for social psychological research on loneliness. Two studies provide methodological refinement in the measurement of loneliness. Study 1 presents a revised version of the self-report UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Loneliness Scale, designed to counter the possible effects of response bias in the original scale, and reports concurrent validity evidence for the revised measure. Study 2 demonstrates that although loneliness is correlated with measures of negative affect, social risk taking, and affiliative tendencies, it is nonetheless a distinct psychological experience.
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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.
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.
This exploratory study investigated how clients of a large urban veterinary center viewed the role of their pet in the family and how they compared this role to that of humans. In Phase 1, randomly selected clients (N = 201) completed a questionnaire containing scales delineating family relationships and pet attachment. Being either a man ora college graduate was associated with lesser feelings of psychological kinship and intimacy, both with pets and people. Neither living with a partner nor having a child affected the strength of pet relationships. In Phase 2, 16 participants from Phase I completed a social network instrument and answered questions about family roles and boundaries. Thirteen of the 16 respondents said that there were circumstances in which they would give a scarce drug to their pet in preference to a person outside the family.
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.
We aimed to determine whether loneliness is associated with higher health care utilization among older adults in the United States. We used panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (2008 and 2012) to examine the long-term impact of loneliness on health care use. The sample was limited to community-dwelling persons in the United States aged 60 years and older. We used negative binomial regression models to determine the impact of loneliness on physician visits and hospitalizations. Under 2 definitions of loneliness, we found that a sizable proportion of those aged 60 years and older in the United States reported loneliness. Regression results showed that chronic loneliness (those lonely both in 2008 and 4 years later) was significantly and positively associated with physician visits (β = 0.075, SE = 0.034). Loneliness was not significantly associated with hospitalizations. Loneliness is a significant public health concern among elders. In addition to easing a potential source of suffering, the identification and targeting of interventions for lonely elders may significantly decrease physician visits and health care costs. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 19, 2015: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302427).
Despite their high rates of depression, homebound older adults have limited access to evidence-based psychotherapy. The purpose of this paper was to report both depression and disability outcomes of telehealth problem-solving therapy (tele-PST via Skype video call) for low-income homebound older adults over 6 months postintervention. A 3-arm randomized controlled trial compared the efficacy of tele-PST to in-person PST and telephone care calls with 158 homebound individuals who were aged 50+ and scored 15+ on the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD). Treatment effects on depression severity (HAMD score) and disability (score on the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule [WHODAS]) were analyzed using mixed-effects regression with random intercept models. Possible reciprocal relationships between depression and disability were examined with a parallel-process latent growth curve model. Both tele-PST and in-person PST were efficacious treatments for low-income homebound older adults; however the effects of tele-PST on both depression and disability outcomes were sustained significantly longer than those of in-person PST. Effect sizes (dGMA-raw ) for HAMD score changes at 36 weeks were 0.68 for tele-PST and 0.20 for in-person PST. Effect sizes for WHODAS score changes at 36 weeks were 0.47 for tele-PST and 0.25 for in-person PST. The results also supported reciprocal and indirect effects between depression and disability outcomes. The efficacy and potential low cost of tele-delivered psychotherapy show its potential for easy replication and sustainability to reach a large number of underserved older adults and improve their access to mental health services.