New Market Research Shows Pets Make Us Feel Less Lonely
Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2019) — Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today gathered leaders in public health, research, psychology, gerontology, and veterinary medicine to advance scientific research, best practices, and practical solutions to facilitate the role of companion animals and human-animal interaction (HAI) in addressing the public health crisis of social isolation and loneliness in society.
Health experts have described loneliness as reaching epidemic levels – affecting people of all generations from all walks of life.[i] And most importantly, social isolation has been shown to be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making it a serious threat to public health.[ii] There is widespread agreement among both pet owners and non-owners that companion animals can play a role in addressing the societal challenge of loneliness and social isolation.[iii]
Results from nationally-representative market research reinforce the social bond between humans and pets. Specifically, 80 percent of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely. When it comes to both pet owners and non-pet-owners, 85 percent of respondents believe interaction with a companion animal can help reduce loneliness and 76 percent agree human-animal interactions can help address social isolation. Further, pet owners with the closest bond to their pet see the highest positive impact on their feelings of loneliness and social isolation.[iv]
“Scientific research shows that pets have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing,” said Steven Feldman, HABRI Executive Director. “The insights from this research further highlight how the human-animal bond can play a role in helping to alleviate loneliness and social isolation.”
Using the insights uncovered in the research, Mars Petcare and HABRI have convened the first-ever Summit on Social Isolation, Loneliness and Companion Animals. The Summit brings together a broad cross-section of expertise to focus on the role of HAI in helping people at risk for social isolation, with a specific focus on HAI as an option for people facing mental health challenges and HAI as a resource for older adults.
Speakers at the Summit included the Nineteenth U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who continues to champion the importance of finding ways to address loneliness and social isolation.
Dr. Murthy shared, “For our health and our work, it is imperative we address the loneliness epidemic quickly and on many evidence-based fronts. I hope this Summit and its working groups will inspire more and different efforts to address loneliness and social isolation through pet interactions and ultimately help make a profound difference for the millions affected.”
To maximize these benefits, many people feel society needs to encourage acceptance and expand access for pets. The HABRI-Mars Petcare survey shows people believe government – both state (41 percent) and federal (38 percent) – have a degree of responsibility to foster human-animal interaction. Many experts feel this represents an opportunity for new, innovative partnerships that harness the power of pets to improve society.
“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, 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.”
To learn more about the Summit and the research into the benefits of pets on loneliness, please visit www.waltham.com and www.habri.org. To learn more about the benefits of pets and how you can take action in your community so that more people and pets can live healthy lives together, visit www.BetterCitiesforPets.com.
HABRI and Mars Petcare Loneliness and Social Isolation Study. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence. December 2018.
HABRI and Mars Petcare Loneliness and Social Isolation Study. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence. December 2018.
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.
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.
About Mars Petcare
Part of Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love, the 85,000 Associates in Mars Petcare are dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 75 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world’s pets – including brands PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYAL CANIN®, NUTRO™, GREENIES™, SHEBA®, CESAR®, IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through a network of over 2,000 pet hospitals including BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™, PET PARTNERS™, VCA™, Linnaeus and AniCura. We’re also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry. As a family business and guided by our principles, we are privileged with the flexibility to fight for what we believe in – and we choose to fight for: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS.
Angela Hughes, DVM PhD
More Press Releases
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Awards Grant for New Study to Examine Therapy Dog Impact on Pediatric Echocardiograms
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $44,000 grant to Duke University School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Cardiology for a new research study titled Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy on Quality, Completeness, and Patient and Parental Satisfaction in Children Undergoing Clinical Echocardiography. This study will examine the influence of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) on young children undergoing an echocardiogram. It is hypothesized that children will have a more complete and higher quality echocardiogram in the presence of therapy dogs. In addition, parents are expected to report higher visit satisfaction scores and greater exam comfort for their children. “Echocardiography is an effective way to use ultrasound to ‘see’ inside the heart, and while taking the pictures is non-invasive, it can still be a scary procedure for young children,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Piers C.A. Barker, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Duke University School of Medicine. “Typically, we must sedate children who have trouble holding still so that we can get adequate pictures. This study aims to evaluate whether animal-assisted therapy could serve as an effective alternative technique to comfort the children and put them at ease, potentially resulting in more complete echocardiograms, higher quality images, and avoidance of sedation drugs.” “We know from previous scientific research that animal-assisted therapy is effective in alleviating anxiety in hospital patients,” said co-investigator, Margaret Gruen, DVM, PhD, DACVB of Duke. “This is one of the first studies to focus on the potential of animal-assisted therapy to impact a clinical outcome. If results are successful, this study could potentially add non-pharmacologic, low-cost options to improve diagnostic quality for children having medical imaging procedures and could encourage broader use of therapy dogs in other pediatric cardiology settings.” The...
New Research to Investigate the Effect of Shelter Cat Adoption on Stress and Anxiety in Children with Autism
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $52,204 grant to the University of Missouri for a new study, Shelter Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism: Impact on Children’s Social Skills and Anxiety as well as Cat Stress. This study will examine the effect of the introduction of a shelter cat on social skills and anxiety in children with autism, and on stress levels for the cats themselves. “Preliminary research demonstrates the effectiveness of companion animal interaction on alleviating social skills deficits and anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),” said the study’s Principal Investigator, Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri. “While many studies have focused on the impact of dogs on children with ASD, this study aims to determine the beneficial impacts of a pet cat on children with autism and their families, as the temperament and the ease of care for cats compared to other animals may increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for the children, the cats and the family as a whole.” In addition to HABRI’s grant award, the PIs have also received funding from the Winn Feline Foundation in the amount of $25,000. The combined funding from Winn Feline and HABRI have enabled the PIs to expand the sample size and add the support of a statistician, which will greatly enhance the power of the study and hopefully result in more definitive and robust findings. “Winn Feline Foundation is thrilled to have initially supported this important study on the human-cat bond and to hear of HABRI’s grant award. Their additional support will strengthen the study’s findings”, commented Winn’s Executive Director Dr. Vicki Thayer. “This significant project evaluating the effects and benefits of adoption of cats by children and families with ASD fits our mission and values”. Using a two-group, randomized, repeated measures design with a delayed treatment...
New HABRI Survey: Knowledge That Pets Improve Our Health Boosts Animal Welfare
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced the findings of a new survey on the impact of knowledge of the scientific benefits of the human-animal bond on how pet owners care for their companion animals. The survey asked pet owners about their awareness of research that shows pets improve human health and found that this knowledge has the power to motivate them to take better care of their pets in important ways. “Scientific research shows that pets are good for our health, improving heart health, relieving stress and positively impacting conditions from autism to PTSD,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “Now, for the first time, we have data to show that it’s a two-way street – when we know how good pets are for us, we are more likely to take better care of them!” According to the survey, seventy-one percent of pet owners were aware of scientifically-documented health benefits from pets. Most importantly, when asked how knowledge of the scientific research on the human-animal bond would affect their actions: 89% of pet owners said they were more likely to take better care of their pets 75% of pet owners said they were more likely to microchip a pet to ensure it can be found if lost or stolen 51% of pet owners said they were more likely to purchase pet health insurance 62% of pet owners said they were less likely to skip visits to the veterinarian 74% of pet owners said they were less likely to give up a pet for any reason 88% of pet owners said they were more likely to provide their pets with high-quality nutrition 92% of pet owners said they were more likely to maintain their pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventative medicine The survey also examined how different generations of pet owners viewed and reacted to the human-animal bond. For millennials, in particular, learning about the scientific research on the health benefits of pets had a large impact: 80% of millennials said this...