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The Influence of Human-Animal Interactions on Mental and Physical Health during the First COVID-19 Lockdown Phase in the U.K.: A Qualitative Exploration

By Emily Shoesmith, Lion Shahab, Dimitra Kale, Daniel S. Mills, Catherine Reeve, Paul Toner, Luciana Santos de Assis, Elena Ratschen

Category Journal Articles

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents an opportunity to explore
the role of animals as sources of emotional and physical support during a period when most of
the population is experiencing social and environmental challenges. We investigated how companion
animal owners perceived the influence of human–animal interaction on their physical and
mental health during the first COVID-19 lockdown phase in the U.K., and what concerns they had
regarding their animals at this time. We also explored the impact of participants’ interaction with
non-companion animals during this phase. A cross-sectional online survey of U.K. residents aged
over 18 was conducted between April and June 2020. The final item of the survey invited open-ended
free-text responses, allowing participants to describe any experiences and/or perceptions of their
human–animal relationships during the COVID-19 lockdown phase. A qualitative thematic analysis
of responses was undertaken. Four main themes related to the following aspects of human–animal
interactions during the COVID-19 lockdown phase were identified: the positive impact of animal
ownership during the COVID-19 lockdown (e.g., amelioration of wellbeing and mental health),
concerns relating to animal ownership during the COVID-19 lockdown (e.g., concerns over animals
carrying the COVID-19 virus), grief and loss of an animal during the COVID-19 lockdown and the
impact of engaging with non-companion animals during the COVID-19 lockdown. The findings
complement and extend previous insights into the impact of human–animal interaction with both
companion and non-companion animals. They also highlight the challenges of caring for an animal
during the lockdown phase and indicate the need to consider the development of further targeted
support strategies, such as “day care” for the companion animals of key workers in this context.

Date 2021
Publication Title International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume 18
Issue 3
Pages 15
ISBN/ISSN 1660-4601
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ijerph18030976
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adolescents
  2. Adults
  3. Age
  4. Animals
  5. Companion
  6. Covid-19
  7. Cross-Sectional Studies
  8. Females
  9. Health status
  10. Human-animal interactions
  11. Human-animal relationships
  12. Humans
  13. Loneliness
  14. Males
  15. Mental health and well-being
  16. Middle Aged Adults
  17. open access
  18. Social Isolation
  19. surveys
  20. United Kingdom
  21. Well-being
  22. Young Adult
  1. open access