Bereavement—Loss of a Pet and Loss of a Human

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This study investigates the impact of the loss of a pet on the owner in comparison with the loss of a significant human, in a national probability sample of 1,232 noninstitutionalized U.S. residents 65 years and older. The difference was examined according to gender, race, and amount of available social support. Data were gathered through a telephone survey. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used to measure emotional distress. Social support was measured by asking three single-item questions that assessed (1) number of confidants, (2) current participation in community and voluntary associations, and (3) marital status. Regression analysis (hierarchial entry procedure) was utilized. The findings indicate that the death of a pet was not associated with depressive symptoms to the extent of deaths of a significant person especially that of a spouse. Further research will benefit from a prospective design in which the direction of causality can be established.

Document Type: Commentary


Publication date: March 1, 1993

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