Pets against loneliness

Leaders in human and animal health explore the role that companion animals could play in addressing the growing societal issue of social isolation.

Events

Human Animal Interaction

7 May 2019 - Experts in public health, research, psychology, gerontology, and veterinary medicine are gathering in Washington, D.C. for the first-ever Social Isolation, Loneliness and Companion Animals Summit, supported by Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI).

Participants will be sharing good practices and discuss ways to advance human-animal interaction research so that animal-assisted interventions become part of evidence-based public health policies to tackle social isolation.

The one-day event will specifically focus on the role human-animal interaction can play in helping older adults who struggle with loneliness and people facing mental health challenges.

According to recent US market research run by HABRI in collaboration with Mars Petcare, 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) people who got a pet for loneliness feel their pet has helped them feel less lonely. A quarter of pet owners interviewed stated they got a pet to improve their mental health, while respondents aged over 55 years old doing so more frequently (55%).

These findings will serve as common ground for discussion, as attendees will try to answer these questions:

- What kind of scientific evidence is needed to support efficient animal-assisted programs?
- What kind of barriers to pet interaction or ownership are vulnerable people are facing, and how can they be overcome?
- How can we ensure animal welfare when developing such programs?
- What are the circumstances and conditions where animal interventions have been most helpful?

“Scientific research shows that pets have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “The insights from this market research further highlight how the human-animal bond can play a role in helping to alleviate loneliness and social isolation.”

Over the past three decades, human-animal interaction researchers have been looking into animal-assisted therapy as a possible way of addressing older adults’ mental health illnesses.

The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition has been supporting research in this field, also through its collaborations with HABRI and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This support has led to a series of studies showing that pets can offer a number of health and wellbeing benefits .

“We know pets improve our lives in many ways – including providing companionship and bringing people together,” said Dr. Nancy Gee, PhD, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition. “It’s our hope that one day evidence-based methods can become common practice in schools, hospitals and other therapy settings. Driven by science, we hope to enable and encourage experts who work with people facing loneliness and social isolation to consider facilitating animal interaction as a way to help address the issue.”

Follow these hashtags and join in the conversation throughout the day on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook:
#PetsAgainstLoneliness #ThankYouPets

About the Market Research

The market research, conducted by Edelman Intelligence on behalf of HABRI and Mars Petcare, was a nationally representative 30-minute online questionnaire conducted in the US to explore the role pets and human-animal interaction can play in addressing social isolation and loneliness. The market research was conducted among 2,036 respondents, including 1,469 pet owners (72 percent). The UCLA Loneliness Index and The Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) were used within the analysis to explore key themes. Data was tested at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Event resources

Summit Presentations
Summit agenda
Market survey Infographic
Social Isolation and Loneliness - Health Impacts
Summit Speaker & Panelist Introductions
HABRI Animal Classifications infographic
Animal -assisted Interventions - Definitions

Read more about human-animal interaction research