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Pets and Loneliness: Examining the Efficacy of a Popular Measurement Instrument

By Andrew Gilbey, Kawtar Tani

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

The revised version of the UCLA-Loneliness Scale has been widely used to investigate the effect of pet ownership on human loneliness. This paper reports three tests of its efficacy for this purpose: 1) a qualitative evaluation of the 20 UCLA-LS items, which concluded that only 6/20 items were likely to tap differences in loneliness due to direct effects of pet ownership, acquisition or separation; 2) a quantitative evaluation of pet-and-loneliness (n = 16) and loneliness (n = 13) researchers’ judgements of how pet owners and non-pet owners might answer each individual item of the UCLA-LS, which suggested that 11 to 13/20 UCLA-LS items might tap differences in loneliness; and 3) a quantitative reanalysis of six datasets, from five earlier studies that had used the UCLA-LS to investigate the effect of pet ownership, acquisition, or separation on loneliness, which concluded that 6/20 items tapped small differences due to pet ownership, but only in 2/6 datasets. Overall, it was found that the efficacy of the UCLA-LS for quantifying effects of pet ownership, acquisition, or separation on human loneliness may be lacking. It is recommended that an instrument specifically for this purpose is developed or that researchers consider using single-item direct measures.

Publication Title Anthrozoös
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 529-546
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2020.1771058
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Tags
  1. Efficacy
  2. Human-animal interactions
  3. Loneliness
  4. Measurement
  5. Pets and companion animals