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About cats and dogs... Reconsidering the relationship between pet ownership and health related outcomes in community-dwelling elderly

By Mieke Rijken, Sandra Beek

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Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Having a pet has been claimed to have beneficial health effects, but methodologically sound empirical studies are scarce. Small sample sizes and a lack of information about the specific type of pets involved make it difficult to draw unambiguous conclusions. We aimed to shed light on the relationship between pet ownership and several health related outcomes by conducting a survey among a large national sample of community-dwelling elderly in The Netherlands, all suffering from chronic illness or disability. We
distinguished several types of pets, focusing on cats and dogs. Pet ownership was associated with a greater chance of using ambulatory mental healthcare, whereas it was not related to self-reported general or mental health. Considering possible mechanisms,
associations between pet ownership and the frequency of social contacts or feelings of loneliness were not found. Having a dog increased the likelihood of being healthy active, whereas having a cat showed the opposite. Future research should pay more attention to pet
related characteristics, in addition to characteristics of the human sample.

Date 2011
Publication Title Social Indicators Research
Volume 102
Issue 3
Pages 373-388
ISBN/ISSN 0303-83001573-0921
Language English
Author Address Rijken, Mieke, NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research , Utrecht, Netherlands, m.rijken@nivel.nl
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal domestication
  2. Animal roles
  3. Communities
  4. Health
  5. Health outcomes
  6. Loneliness
  7. Outpatient Treatment
  8. Pet ownership
  9. Pets and companion animals
  10. Walking