Effect of Pet Insects on the Psychological Health of Community-Dwelling Elderly People: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Controlled Trial

Gerontology. 2016;62(2):200-9. doi: 10.1159/000439129. Epub 2015 Sep 18.


Background: There is evidence that animal-assisted therapy has positive effects on mental health, especially in elderly people. Caring for insects is easy, relatively inexpensive, and does not require much space.

Objective: The aim of this 8-week randomized, controlled, single-blinded study was to investigate the effect of pet insects on the psychological health of community-dwelling elderly people.

Methods: Elderly subjects (≥65 years old) attending a community center in Daegu, Korea, were enrolled in the study between April and May 2014 and randomized at a 1:1 ratio to receive insect therapy and health advice or only health advice. The insect group received 5 crickets in a cage with sufficient fodder and a detailed instruction manual. At baseline and at 8 weeks, all subjects underwent psychometric tests via a direct interview [Beck Anxiety Inventory, Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15), Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), 36-Item Short Form Health Survey, Insomnia Severity Index, Fatigue Severity Scale, and Brief Encounter Psychosocial Instrument] and laboratory analyses of inflammatory and oxidative stress markers (erythrocyte sedimentation rate, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, biological antioxidant potential, and derivatives of reactive oxygen metabolites).

Results: The insect-caring (n = 46) and control (n = 48) groups did not differ in baseline characteristics. The insect-caring group had significantly lower GDS-15 scores at week 8 (3.20 vs. 4.90, p = 0.004) and, after adjustment for baseline values, a significantly greater change in GDS-15 scores relative to baseline (-1.12 vs. 0.20, p = 0.011). They also had a significantly greater change in MMSE scores relative to baseline (1.13 vs. 0.31, p = 0.045). The two groups did not differ in terms of other psychometric and laboratory tests. No serious risks or adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: Caring for insects, which is cost-effective and safe, was associated with a small to medium positive effect on depression and cognitive function in community-dwelling elderly people.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animal Assisted Therapy / methods*
  • Animals
  • Blood Sedimentation
  • C-Reactive Protein / immunology
  • Cognition*
  • Depression / immunology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Fatigue / immunology
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gryllidae
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Insecta*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Oxidative Stress / immunology
  • Pets*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / immunology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / immunology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • C-Reactive Protein