Association between Experience of Pet Ownership and Psychological Health among Socially Isolated and Non-Isolated Older Adults
Human Care Research Team, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo 173-0015, Japan
Center for Health and Environmental Risk Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba 305-0053, Japan
Integrated Research Initiative for Living Well with Dementia, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo 173-0015, Japan
Research Team for Social Participation and Community Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo 173-0015, Japan
Kagawa Nutrition University, Saitama 350-0288, Japan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Aubrey H. Fine
Received: 1 February 2021 / Revised: 17 February 2021 / Accepted: 18 February 2021 / Published: 24 February 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated social isolation, particularly of older adults who are at increased risk of severe illness, while practicing physical distancing and self-quarantine. This study conducted in a metropolitan area of Japan hopes to provide stronger cross-cultural evidence of the positive impact of pet ownership on the psychological health of socially isolated owners with its large sample of older adults comparing two types of pet ownership (i.e., dog or cat). In this study, experience of dog or cat ownership and the presence or absence of social isolation were categorized into four groups to compare psychological health of each group. After adjusting for demographic and potential confounders, we found that socially isolated older adults who never owned a dog were more likely to report lower psychological health in comparison to socially isolated current or past dog owners. Our findings have practical implications that pets, particularly dogs, can play a role in increasing opportunities for engaging in physical and social activities and providing emotional support and thereby reducing a sense of social isolation and loneliness and improving psychological health among older adults.