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Companion animal separation and loneliness

By A. Gilbey, J. McNicholas, G. M. Collis

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It is widely believed that companion animal ownership can help to alleviate loneliness. This study explored whether companion animal separation leads to increased levels of loneliness. Among new students who had been at university for three weeks, no evidence was found that companion animal separation was associated with increased levels of loneliness, irrespective of the self-reported "closeness" of the owner-companion animal relationship before separation. Because prior to leaving home companion animal owners and non-companion animal owners may have somehow differed, a comparable sample of companion animal owners and non-companion animal owners was tested immediately prior to the time of moving to university. No difference in loneliness was found due to companion animal ownership, irrespective of the self-reported degree of closeness of the relationship. As both samples may have been atypical, the impact of moving to university on loneliness was explored and a highly significant increase in loneliness was found. Overall, these findings suggest that companion animal separation does not contribute to the increase in loneliness observed when students leave home to start at university.

Date 2006
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 19
Issue 3
Pages 257-264
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Author Address School of Aviation, College of Business, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Emotions
  4. Loneliness
  5. peer-reviewed
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. surveys
  8. Universities and Colleges
  1. peer-reviewed