The association between dog ownership and mental health remains unclear. The primary aim of this study was to investigate this association, while the secondary aim was to examine possible interactions between dog ownership and marital status in relation to mental health. A population sample of 68,362 adults living in England were included in this study. Self-reported information on short-term psychological distress and long-standing mental illness was collected. Multilevel logistical models were used to allow for inter-dependence of participants within the same household. In total, 15,856 (23.2%) participants reported the presence of dog in the household. Dog owners were less likely to report long-standing mental illness than non-owners. An interaction was found between dog ownership and marital status in relation to mental health. In subsequent stratified analyses solitary owners displayed increased odds of short-term psychological distress, whilst companioned owners displayed lower odds of reporting long-standing mental illness. Our findings indicate a complex relationship between dog ownership and mental health, and suggest that psychological health attributes of dog ownership may vary based on marital status. Further investigation is warranted, especially longitudinal studies which consider variation in dog-ownership behaviors.
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