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The impact of pet ownership on health and health service use: Results from a community sample of Australians aged 40 to 44 years

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Research on the extent to which humans derive health and social benefits from being with pets has produced inconsistent findings. We examined whether middle-aged adults who owned or cared for pets differed in mental or physical health or in use of general practitioner services. We obtained socio-demographic data and measures of mental and physical health from a random sample of 2,530 adults aged 40 to 44 years living in the community. For 1844 of these participants, we also obtained records on the numbers of general practitioner visits they had made over a 12-month period. Compared with those without pets, pet owners were more likely to be female, married or in a de facto relationship, and in the workforce. Measures of physical and mental health, including use of general practitioner services, were not significantly affected by pet ownership and caring. However, we found that those who owned or cared for a pet used pain relief medications more frequently. We conclude that neither pet ownership nor caring for pets confers any health benefit in this age group. Our findings call into question the generalizability of previous studies that have suggested that higher levels of pet ownership could result in reduced health care expenditure.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279303786992305

Publication date: March 1, 2003

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