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Relationships between pet ownership, physical activity, and human health in elderly persons

By Roland James Thorpe

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Abstract While previous studies have suggested that pet ownership is associated with improved health among older adults, the basis for the association is unclear. Increased physical activity has been suggested as a possible explanation, but only one study has evaluated this mechanism. ^ Data from community dwelling adults 71–82 years of age attending the third visit of the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study were used to examine the relationship between pet ownership, physical activity, and hypertension. Of these 2533 elderly adults, 594 (23.4%) were pet owners. This included 167 (6.6%) cat owners, 328 (12.9%) dog owners, 99 (3.9%) who owned a bird or fish or some combination of animals. After adjustment for confounders, dog owners were more likely than non-pet owners to engage in nonexercise walking in the past week (odds ratio [OR] = 1.85, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.40, 2.42), but did not differ significantly from non-pet owners in walking for exercise or any physical activity. In contrast, cat owners were less likely than non-pet owners to engage in walking for exercise (OR = 0.49, 95% CI 0.33, 0.72) or in any physical activity in the past week (OR = 0.56, 95% CI 0.39, 0.81), but not in nonexercise walking. Dog owners did not differ significantly from non pet owners with respect to prevalent hypertension (OR = .88, CI = 65, 1.17) or recent onset hypertension (OR = .81, CI = .50, 1.29). In addition, cat owners did not differ significantly from non pet owners with regard to prevalent hypertension (OR = 1.45, CI = .93, 2.27) or recent onset hypertension (OR = 1.43, CI = .73, 2.80). ^ Although benefits of pet ownership in general include an increase in physical activity, these benefits are likely related to the type of pet owned and associated physical activity. While this study provided no statistical evidence of an association between pet ownership, physical activity, and prevalent or recent onset hypertension in a population of elderly adults, the odds ratio for prevalent or recent onset hypertension was decreased among dog owners and increased among cat owners compared with non-pet owners. Future studies examining the relationship between pet ownership and hypertension should be specific to the type of pet owned. ^
Submitter

Stephanie Schaffner

Location of Publication Lafayette, IN
URL http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI3154742/
Language English
University Purdue University
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Human health
  3. Older adults
  4. Pet ownership
  5. Pets and companion animals
  6. physical activity