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Examining differences between homebound older adult pet owners and non-pet owners in depression, systemic inflammation, and executive function

By S. Branson, L. Boss, S. Cron, DuckHee Kang

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Abstract

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 associated with depression, inflammation, and reduced executive function in homebound older adults. The primary aim of this study was to examine differences 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 associated 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 instruments (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 executive 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 between 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 function in homebound older adults.

Publication Title Anthrozoƶs
Volume 29
Issue 2
Pages 323-334
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address University of Texas Health Science Center School of Nursing, 6901 Bertner Avenue, SON 724, Houston, TX 77030, USA.Sandra.m.branson@uth.tmc.edu
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Tags
  1. Animals
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Bacteria
  4. Canidae
  5. Canine
  6. Carnivores
  7. Cats
  8. Dogs
  9. Humans
  10. Immunoassay
  11. Infections
  12. Infectious diseases
  13. Inflammation
  14. Instruments
  15. Mammals
  16. Men
  17. Older adults
  18. pathogens
  19. Pets and companion animals
  20. Primates
  21. proteins
  22. Psychiatry and psychology
  23. Research
  24. sepsis
  25. social anthropology
  26. Social psychology and social anthropology
  27. vertebrates
  28. Veterinary sciences
  29. Zoology