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The protective association between pet ownership and depression among street-involved youth: a cross-sectional study

By M. Lem, J. B. Coe, D. B. Haley, E. Stone, W. O'Grady

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Street-involved youth represent a particularly vulnerable subsection of the homeless population and are at increased risk of health problems, substance abuse, and depression. Qualitative research has demonstrated that animal companions help homeless youth cope with loneliness, are motivators for positive change, such as decreasing drug or alcohol use, provide unconditional love without judgement, and improve youths' sense of health. To quantitatively investigate the association between depression and pet ownership among street-involved youth, a cross-sectional study was performed with a convenience sample of 189 street-involved youths who were surveyed in four cities in Ontario, Canada, 89 of whom were pet owners and 100 of whom were not. Logistic regression modelling found pet ownership to be negatively associated with depression in the study population (controlling for gender, regular use of drugs, and time since youth left home), with the odds of being depressed three times greater for youths who did not own pets. While pet ownership among street-involved youth has many liabilities, including impairing youths' ability to access shelter, services, and housing and employment opportunities, companion animals may offer both physical and psychosocial benefits that youth have difficult attaining. This finding highlights the importance of increased awareness among youth service providers of the potential impacts of pet ownership for street-involved youth.

Publication Title Anthrozoƶs
Volume 29
Issue 1
Pages 123-136
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2015.1082772
Language English
Author Address Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario,
  1. Alcohol
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animals
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. APEC countries
  6. Attitudes
  7. Canada
  8. Cities and towns
  9. Commonwealth of Nations
  10. Countries
  11. Developed countries
  12. Drugs
  13. Employees
  14. Health
  15. homelessness
  16. Humans
  17. Illnesses
  18. Impact
  19. Mammals
  20. Men
  21. models
  22. North America
  23. OECD countries
  24. Pets and companion animals
  25. Primates
  26. Psychiatry and psychology
  27. Social psychology and social anthropology
  28. Substance dependence
  29. toxicology
  30. United States of America
  31. urban areas
  32. vertebrates
  33. Veterinary sciences
  34. youth
  35. Zoology