The pet connection: pets as a conduit for social capital?

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Sep;61(6):1159-73. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.01.017. Epub 2005 Mar 3.


There is growing interest across a range of disciplines in the relationship between pets and health, with a range of therapeutic, physiological, psychological and psychosocial benefits now documented. While much of the literature has focused on the individual benefits of pet ownership, this study considered the potential health benefits that might accrue to the broader community, as encapsulated in the construct of social capital. A random survey of 339 adult residents from Perth, Western Australia were selected from three suburbs and interviewed by telephone. Pet ownership was found to be positively associated with some forms of social contact and interaction, and with perceptions of neighbourhood friendliness. After adjustment for demographic variables, pet owners scored higher on social capital and civic engagement scales. The results suggest that pet ownership provides potential opportunities for interactions between neighbours and that further research in this area is warranted. Social capital is another potential mechanism by which pets exert an influence on human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance Benefits*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Support*
  • Western Australia