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The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital?

By L. Wood, B. Giles-Corti, M. Bulsara

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There is growing interest across a range of disciplines in the relationship between pets and health, with a range of therapeutic, physiological, psychological and psychosocial benefits now documented. While much of the literature has focused on the individual benefits of pet ownership, this study considered the potential health benefits that might accrue to the broader community, as encapsulated in the construct of social capital. A random survey of 339 adult residents from Perth, Western Australia were selected from three suburbs and interviewed by telephone. Pet ownership was found to be positively associated with some forms of social contact and interaction, and with perceptions of neighbourhood friendliness. After adjustment for demographic variables, pet owners scored higher on social capital and civic engagement scales. The results suggest that pet ownership provides potential opportunities for interactions between neighbours and that further research in this area is warranted. Social capital is another potential mechanism by which pets exert an influence on human health.

Date 2005
Publication Title Social Science & Medicine
Volume 61
Issue 6
Pages 1159-1173
ISBN/ISSN 0277-9536
DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.01.017
Language English
Author Address School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
  1. Australasia
  2. Australia
  3. Commonwealth of Nations
  4. Developed countries
  5. Mammals
  6. neighborhoods
  7. Oceania
  8. OECD countries
  9. Pets and companion animals
  10. Primates
  11. social interactions
  12. Social psychology and social anthropology
  1. peer-reviewed