The Well-Being of Older Women: The Importance of Pet and Human Relations

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The present study sought to determine whether attachment to companion animals is significantly related to the physical and psychological well-being of older women. Network resources, network interactions, and perceived support available to the subjects were assessed and various health factors were measured for a sample of 53 elderly women. The average respondent was 73 years old and had one pet. Half were living alone. The women living alone were older, used more social services, and reported more doctor visits and use of over-the-counter medicines than did those living with others. While the sample is small for a multivariate study, a pilot analysis was undertaken. No relationship was found between pet attachment and feelings of depression, and pet variables had relatively little impact on psychological or physical wellbeing. The authors conclude that these data should not be interpreted as saying that pets are not important for some owners but that, even among this group of attached pet owners, there was not a strong enough effect of the pet to reach group significance. This group was a small, highly selected sample that may have been too homogeneous, and/or the self-report measures may lack the sensitivity to detect differences.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1990

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