The Effect of Pet Ownership on Overall Health
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HUTCHINGS, M. J., & PHILLIPS, T. R. (2001). The Effect of Pet Ownership on Overall Health. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Effect of Pet Ownership on Overall Health
MELISSA J. HUTCHINGS AND TIA R. PHILLIPS
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
Research has shown that owning a pet is beneficial to people’s overall physical and emotional health. The purpose of this study was to establish a relationship between pet ownership and health. A 14-item paper-and-pencil survey was given to 26 participants in the St. Joseph, MO area. This survey assessed health and determined whether or not the participant owned a pet. The results showed that there was no significant difference (t(21) = .337, p>.05) between the health of pet-owners and the health of non-owners. The results were not consistent with the research, thus, further research should be done in this area in an attempt to replicate the previous results.

INTRODUCTION
Psychologists, for years, have been taking notice of the benefits of pet ownership. People are always looking for ways to improve their lives, and it is becoming more and more evident that simply owning a pet might do just that. Research has overwhelmingly supported the concept that owning a pet is beneficial to the physical and emotional well being of the owner. Physiologically speaking, pets are said to have a positive impact on the health of individuals. Vormbrock and Grossberg (1998) found that the act of petting a dog actually lowers blood pressure (as cited in Brasic, 1998). This could be a result of the mind escaping from stress while focusing on the dog. There have been some studies done explaining touch therapy; these benefits of touching the dog could be explained through those studies. Another study, done by Katcher (1982), found pets to be highly beneficial in the reduction of blood pressure, as well as the increased success in the survival of coronary artery illness (as cited in Sable, 1995). Owning an animal, especially a dog, causes the owner to be more active, thus increasing their overall physical health. Siegel (1990) found that pet owners have fewer total doctor visits over a one-year period than do those who do not own pets. He concluded that pets seemed to help their owners cope with stressful life events. Pets are said to have a definite impact on the mental and emotional well being of their owners. Kidd and Feldmann (1981) concluded that pet-owners are more responsible, more dependable, and less dependent on others than are non-owners. Owning a pet requires a person to be more responsible because the pet depends on the owner to feed, water, walk, and give overall care for the pet. The practice of being responsible is then reflected in the owners’ everyday lives; therefore, proving to others they are dependable. They also found pet-owners to be more optimistic, more poised, and more productive than non-owners. If a person has someone depending on him or her, whether it is another person or a pet, the person is going to have a higher level of self-worth, thus, a better view of the world. It has been said that pets actually help reduce feelings of loneliness and give their owners a higher self-perception (Goldmeier, 1986). Other research has indicated a positive correlation between the reduction of loneliness and pet ownership in homeless youth (Rew, 2000). Homeless individuals have said that owning a dog actually provides them with warmth, friendship, and love that they would not otherwise experience given their situations. Pets have also been shown to benefit people, even outside the realm of ownership. Corson, Corson, and Gwyne (1975) found pet-facilitated psychotherapy to be useful in treating patients under the age of 65, suggesting that pets can be therapeutic when used alongside another type of treatment (as cited in Robb & Steggman, 1983). Perhaps the idea that pets serve in reducing loneliness and increasing the perception of the self can be best explained in a study done by Jesson, Cordiello, and Baun (1996) involving the random assignment of a caged bird to half of the participants involved. The individuals were not allowed to care for the bird themselves for varying reasons. The results of the study showed that there was a decrease in depression, but there was no reflection on scores indicating improvement for morale or loneliness. Given the results of previous research, it could be said that the act of caring for the pet is essential in the reduction of loneliness and heightened sense of self-worth (Goldmeier, 1986). Research previously conducted has supported the idea that the ownership of a pet can be beneficial to an individual’s overall health. The purpose of this study is to show there is a correlation between pet ownership and physical and emotional health. This study measured the physical and emotional health with the aide of a questionnaire administered by the researchers. The questions were used to help determine whether or not the participant owned a pet, and measure their quality of life and overall health. It was hypothesized, and supported by the research, that pet ownership is a positive aid in benefiting the overall health of individuals.


METHOD
-None-

PARTICIPANTS
Twenty-six participants, consisting of both pet-owners and non-owners, were selected from the St. Joseph, MO area and asked to complete a survey assessing overall physical and emotional health. The male and female participants’ ages ranged from 25 to 50 years.

MATERIALS
A paper-and-pencil questionnaire, consisting of 14 items, was used to collect the data. The data were used to determine the scores for the participants. These scores were then used to conclude whether pet-ownership does, in fact, benefit general health (See Appendix).

PROCEDURE
The participants were selected by the researchers and then asked to fill out the survey. The surveys were then collected, and the data analyzed to compare the physical and emotional health of pet-owners with that of non-owners.


RESULTS
An independent t-test was calculated comparing the mean score of the overall health of pet-owners to the mean score of the overall health of non-owners. No significant difference was found (t(21) = .337, p > .05). The mean of the pet-owners’ health (m = 116, sd = 10.24) was not significantly different from the mean of the non-owners’ health (m = 121, sd = 14.9).


DISCUSSION
The results showed that there was no significant difference in the overall physical and emotional health of pet-owners as opposed to non-owners. These results were inconsistent with the hypothesis, which stated that pet-owners would be of better health than non-owners. They were also inconsistent with a study previously done by Siegel (1990), where he found that pet-owners have fewer total doctor visits over a one-year period than do non-owners. The results were incompatible with other studies conducted measuring the effect of pet ownership on health, in that these studies found pets to be beneficial in the improvement of physical health (Vambrock and Grossberg, 1998, as cited in Brasic, 1998; Katcher, 1982, as cited in Sable, 1995). Other studies showed the emotional health of pet-owners to be better than that of non-owners, such as decreased sense of loneliness, for which our study failed to provide conclusive evidence (Goldmeier, 1986; Rew, 2000). There were a few limitations in this study that could account for the results being inconsistent with the literature. An attempt was made to secure as sufficient and exhaustive sample as possible; however, this was hindered due to extenuating circumstances surrounding the data collection. The individuals who participated in the study were all inhabitants of a semi-rural, middle class town. This provides a problem in that these results would not necessarily generalize to other populations. It is suggested for future studies that researchers narrow their participants to a selected age range, such as the elderly. Future researchers may want to collect data from participants in a variety of locations, in order to increase the generality of the results.


REFERENCES
Brasic, J. R. (1998). Pets and health. Psychological Reports, 83, 1011-1024. Goldmeier, J. (1986). Pets or people: Another research note. Gerontologist, 26, 203-206. Jesson, J., Cardiello, F., & Baun, M. M. (1996). Avian companionship in alleviation of depression, loneliness, and low morale of older adults in skilled rehabilitation units. Psychological Reports, 78, 339-348. Kehoe, M. (1990). Loneliness and the aging homosexual: Is pet therapy an answer? Journal of Homosexuality, 20, 137-142. Kidd, A. H., & Feldmann, B. M. (1981). Pet ownership and self-perceptions of older people. Psychological Reports, 48, 867-875. Rew, L. (2000). Friends and pets as companions: Strategies for coping with loneliness among homeless youth. Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 13,125-128. Robb, S. S., & Stegman, C. E. (1983). Companion animals and elderly people: A challenge for evaluators of social support. Gerontologist, 23, 277-282 Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Social Work, 40, 334-341. Siegel, J. M. (1990). Stressful life events and use of physician services among the elderly: The moderating role of pet ownership. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 58, 1081-1086.


APPENDIX
These first questions are about your health now and your current daily activities. Please try to answer every question as accurately as you can.

Q1. In general would you say your health is…1. excellent2. very good3. good4. fair5. poor

Q2. Compared to one year ago, how would you rate your health in general now? Would you say it is…1. much better now than one year ago2. somewhat better now than one year ago3. about the same as one year ago4. somewhat worse now than one year ago5. much worse now that one year ago

Q3. First vigorous activities, such as running, lifting heavy objects, participating in strenuous sports. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited a t all

Q4. …moderate activities , such as moving table, pushing a vacuum cleaner, bowling, or playing golf. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q5. …lifting or carrying groceries. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of you health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q6. …climbing several flights of stairs. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot 2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q7. …climbing one flight of stairs. Does you health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q8. …bending, kneeling, or stooping. Does you health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q9. …walking more than a mile. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q10. …walking several blocks. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q11. …walking one block. Does your health now limit you a lot, limit you a little, or not limit you at all?

Is that because of your health?1. Yes, limited a lot2. Yes, limited a little3. No, not limited at all

Q12. …bathing or dressing yourself. Does your health now limit you a little, limit you a lot, or not limit you at all? Is that because of your health?4. Yes, limited a lot5. Yes, limited a little6. No, not limited at all

The following four questions ask about your physical health and daily activities.

Q13. During the past 4 weeks, have you had to cut down the amount of time you spent on work or other regular daily activities as a result of your physical health?1. Yes2. No

Q14. During the past 4 weeks, have you accomplished less than you would like as a result of your physical health?1. Yes2. No

Q15. During the past 4 weeks, were you limited in the kind of work or other regular activities you do as a result of your physical health?1. Yes2. No

Q16. During the past 4 weeks, have you had difficulty performing work or other regular daily activities as a result of your physical health, for example, it took extra effort?1. Yes2. No

The following three questions ask about your emotions and your daily activities:

Q17. During the past 4 weeks, have you cut down the amount of time you spent on work or regular daily activities as a result of any emotional problems, such as feeling depressed or anxious?1. Yes2. No

Q18. During the past 4 weeks, have you accomplished less than you would like as a result of any emotional problems, such as feeling depressed or anxious?1. Yes2. No

Q19. During the past 4 weeks, did you not do work or other regular daily activities as carefully as usual as a result of any emotional problems, such as feeling depressed or anxious?1. Yes2. No

Q20. During the past 4 weeks, to what extent has you physical health or emotional problems interfered with your normal social activities with family, neighbors, or groups?1. not at all2. slightly3. moderately 4. quite a bit5. or extremely

Q21. During the past 4 weeks, how much did pain interfere with your normal work, including both work outside the home and housework? Did it interfere…1. not at all2. a little bit 3. moderately4. quite a bit5. or extremely

Q22. How much bodily pain have you had during the past 4 weeks? Have you had…1. none2. very mild 3. mild 4. moderate5. severe6. or very severe

Q23. During the past 4 weeks, how much of the time has your physical health or emotional problems interfered with your social activities like visiting with friends or relatives? Has it interfered…1. all of the time2. most of the time3. some of the time4. a little of the time5. or none of the time

The next questions are about how you feel and how things have been with you during the past 4 weeks.

Q24. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…did you feel full of pep? (Read categories)1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q25. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…have you been a very nervous person? (Read categories)1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q26. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…have you felt so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer you up?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q27. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…have you felt calm and peaceful?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q28. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…did you have a lot of energy?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q29. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…have you felt downhearted and blue?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q30. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…did you feel worn out?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q31. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…have you been a happy person?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

Q32. How much of the time during the past 4 weeks…did you feel tired?1. all of the time2. most of the time3. a good bit of the time4. some of the time5. a little of the time6. none of the time

These next questions are about your health and health-related matters.

Q33. I seem to get sick a little easier that other people. Would you say that is…1. definitely true2. mostly true3. don’t know4. mostly false5. definitely false

Q34. I am as healthy as anybody I know. Would you say that’s…1. definitely true2. mostly true3. don’t know4. mostly false5. definitely false

Q35. I expect my health to get worse. Would you say that’s…1. definitely true2. mostly true3. don’t know4. mostly false5. definitely false

Q36. My health is excellent. Would you say that’s…1. definitely true2. mostly true3. don’t know4. mostly false5. definitely false

The last few questions will refer to pet ownership.

Q37. Do you own a pet?1. Yes2. No

***If YES: How long have you owned a pet?1. As long as I can remember2. For a very long time3. Not very long at all

***If YES: What type of pet do you own?1. Dog2. Cat3. Bird4. Fish5. Gerbil6. Other

***If NO: Would you be interested in owning a pet now?1. Yes2. No3. Maybe

***If NO: Can we help you adopt a pet?1. Yes2. No

***If NO: Have you ever owned a pet?1. Yes2. No

Optional:Age___________Gender___________Occupation___________

Submitted 11/26/2001 1:06:05 PM
Last Edited 11/26/2001 9:22:27 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 0 users. Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2017 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.