Pet Loss and Mental Health

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The purpose of this article is to present results from a pilot study designed to assess the feasibility of conducting research among bereaved pet owners and to present a preliminary description comparing bereaved pet owners who received counseling to bereaved pet owners who did not. The overall response rate, calculated as all who returned a consent form divided by all who were mailed a consent form, was 45.1%, indicating a need to modify the contact procedure for future studies. Depressive symptoms were used as the outcome measure to assess differences between the bereaved owners who received counseling and those who did not. Controlling for the influences of age, gender, self-reported health, negative life changes, and type of pet, there were significant differences in depressive symptoms comparing those who received counseling and those who received no counseling. Individuals who received counseling were significantly more likely to have high depressive symptoms compared with those who received no counseling. In addition, the counseled group had more negative life changes, were more likely to have a dog, had owned their pet longer, had fewer household members, and were more strongly attached to their pets. These results, while preliminary, suggest the importance of providing a source of mental health counseling for people who are undergoing pet loss.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 1994

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