People who are racial and ethnic minorities have a greater risk of experiencing the burdens of health and financial inequalities, as well as racism and discrimination, compared to White populations. Racism and health disparities are known to promote negative physical and mental health outcomes in minority populations, especially among African Americans. The human-animal bond (HAB) may alleviate the health burden of discrimination and other sources of stress that minority populations face, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no past or current studies that have investigated the effects of the human-animal bond on self-perceived physical or mental health among minorities, especially in conjunction with the stress associated with racism and discrimination. Thus, there is a significant and timely need for this research to advance and protect the health and well-being of minority populations.
This pilot study aims to examine quantitative survey information from White and racial/ethnic pet-owners and non-owners within the mid-Atlantic U.S., with a goal to use this experience and data to prepare a national survey. The survey will collect data on owner-pet bond characteristics and owner self-perceived health and stressors, such as (if relevant) stress associated with racism and discrimination.
- Objective 1) Evaluate participant self-perceived health, and assess potential effects of pet-ownership (and species) on participant health outcomes, with a focus on racial/ethnic minorities.
- Objective 2) Assess participant self-perceived stress levels of racism events. B. Examine the effects of racism on the potential relationship between pet-ownership, and participant health.
- Objective 3) Determine the effects of owner-pet bond characteristics, such as perceived pet attachment, on the relationship between pet-ownership, participant health, and the stress of racism.
The main hypothesis is that pet-ownership status will be associated with improved health outcomes of minority pet-owners (compared to minority non-owners), but that the context of the human-animal bond (e.g. pet attachment), and perceived stress associated with racism, will further modify this relationship.
The research team will widely distribute a RedCap-based survey for racial/ethnic minority and White pet-owners and non-owners within the mid-Atlantic U.S.. The sample will first be stratified my race, and then pet-ownership. We will use snowball sampling by contacting and engaging businesses across the region, targeting communities across a spectrum of socioeconomic status to lesson sampling bias. Survey questions will measure data from four topic areas, which are self-perceived physical and mental health outcomes (Obj 1.), stress levels associated with experiences of racism/discrimination (Obj. 2), and owner-pet bond characteristics such as frequency of interaction, owner rating of pet attachment, and pet-care concerns if in strife (Obj. 3).
Overall, the researchers predict minority pet-owners to have better health outcomes compared to minorities that do not own pets, and that the intensity of this relationship will be dependent on pet species owned, the context of the human-animal bond, and racism-related stress levels.