Pet ownership may attenuate loneliness among older adult primary care patients who live alone

Aging Ment Health. 2014;18(3):394-9. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2013.837147. Epub 2013 Sep 18.


Objectives: Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at increased risk for a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes, including early mortality. Identifying potential sources of social connectedness, such as pet ownership, could add to the understanding of how to promote health and well-being in older adults. The aim of this study is to describe the association of pet ownership and loneliness.

Method: The current study utilizes cross-sectional survey data from a sample (N = 830) of older adult primary care patients (age ≥ 60 years).

Results: Pet owners were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness, in a model controlling for age, living status (i.e., alone vs. not alone), happy mood, and seasonal residency (adjOR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.41-0.98, p < 0.05). An interaction was found between pet ownership and living status (b = -1.60, p < 0.001) in which living alone and not owning a pet was associated with the greatest odds of reporting feelings of loneliness.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that pet ownership may confer benefits for well-being, including attenuating feelings of loneliness and its related sequelae, among older adults who live alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • New York
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ownership*
  • Pets*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires