International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 303-310

First online:

Health effects of ownership of and attachment to companion animals in an older population

  • Helen R. WinefieldAffiliated withDiscipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide Email author 
  • , Anne BlackAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of Adelaide
  • , Anna Chur-HansenAffiliated withDiscipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide

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Background: Two reasons for the inconclusiveness of the literature on the health effects of pet ownership are (1) failure to control for other known influences on health, and (2) inadequate consideration of the nature of the emotional relationship between owners and their companion animals.Purpose: The main aims were to develop a measure of pet attachment that reflects psychologists’ use of the attachment concept, and to see if pet ownership or attachment added to the health variance explained by known predictors.Method: Community-living older adults (n = 314) gave information by interview using structured questions and standardized scales. Multiple regressions were then conducted to examine the possible predictive role of health habits, human social supports, pet ownership, and owners’ attachment to the pet, on health and well-being.Results: The pet attachment measure showed good internal reliability. After controlling for other variables, neither pet ownership nor pet attachment added significantly to explained variance in health and well-being.Conclusions: The health of elderly people is related to their health habits and social supports but not to their ownership of, or attachment to, a companion animal.

Key words

human-animal bond pets health social support emotional bonds