The Relationship between Dog Ownership, Psychopathological Symptoms and Health-Benefitting Factors in Occupations at Risk for Traumatization
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Individuals working in high-risk occupations (e.g., emergency staff) are exposed to high levels of occupational stress including traumatic events. Correspondingly, several studies report high rates of mental health problems among these occupations. Pet ownership has been associated with better mental health. However, to date a study on the association between pet ownership and indicators of mental health in these occupations is missing. The present cross-sectional survey (N = 580) investigated pet ownership, attachment to pets, health-benefitting factors (i.e., sense of coherence, trait-resilience, locus of control) and psychopathological symptoms (i.e., general mental health problems, posttraumatic stress, burnout) in medical staff, police officers, and firefighters. Dog owners and non-dog owners showed comparable levels of psychopathological distress and health-benefitting factors. Compared to cat owners, dog owners demonstrated stronger emotional attachment to their pet. Moreover, a stronger attachment was also linked to higher levels of psychopathological symptoms and lower levels of health-benefitting factors. However, the relationship between attachment to pets and health-benefitting factors could be explained by their overlap with psychopathological symptom levels. Overall, our findings are not in line with the notion that pet ownership generally has a health-benefitting effect. Future studies need to investigate circumstances that modulate positive effects of pet ownership.
|Publication Title||International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health|
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