Washington, D.C. (February 20, 2020) — Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), with support from a broad consortium of partners, today released a report that offers a roadmap for advancing research and best practices that address how human-animal interaction can serve as an important solution to the growing epidemic of loneliness and social isolation.
“There is increasing evidence that pets can play an important role in helping people feel less lonely and more socially connected,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director, HABRI. “Together with the leadership of Mars Petcare and a group of other experts and stakeholders, HABRI will work to address the crisis of loneliness in our society with the power of the human-animal bond.”
Loneliness currently affects three in five Americans[i] and 9 million people in the United Kingdom.[ii] Loneliness can be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making it a serious threat to public health.[iii] Mars Petcare and HABRI surveyed 2,000 people in the United States, finding that 85 percent of respondents believe interaction with companion animals can help reduce loneliness.[iv]
“We have a responsibility to take the scientific exploration further when evidence to date shows us that pets can be part of addressing such a significant societal issue,” commented Rena Crumplen, Global Vice President of Research and Development, Mars Petcare. “It’s important that we undertake rigorous studies to understand how companion animals may provide a benefit for those suffering from conditions associated with social isolation and loneliness.”
The new report, Addressing the Social Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic with the Power of Companion Animals, brings forward the recommendations from the Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals, along with the continued work of a broad consortium of human health advocates, mental health practitioners, veterinarians and human-animal interaction researchers. The report outlines the following three-pronged approach to facilitate the role of HAI and pet ownership in addressing social isolation and loneliness:
- Advance High-Quality Research: Advance human-animal interaction (HAI) research to glean a better understanding for whom and under what circumstances interactions with companion animals may be effective for alleviating social isolation and loneliness.
- Help Address Barriers and Provide Solutions: Identify ways to remove barriers to access for pet ownership and human-animal interaction for those who may face hurdles and stand to benefit most – including older adults and people with mental health challenges.
- Share and Support the Proliferation of Best Practices: Support and help advance best practices in HAI and for companion animal ownership that help prevent, reduce and mitigate social isolation and loneliness. Ensure animal-assisted interventions in approved settings – including hospitals, nursing homes and within our communities – are grounded in science, meet high standards of animal welfare, and have the broadest societal impact.
Organizations that have contributed to the report, through participation in the Summit and the ongoing consortium working groups, include:
- Alliance for Aging Research
- American Pet Products Association
- Animal Policy Group
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
- Association of Child Life Professionals
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Baltimore VA Medical Center
- Banfield Pet Hospital
- California State Polytechnic University
- Canine Companions for Independence
- Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Chicago Headquarters
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
- Florida State University
- Found Animals Foundation
- The Gerontological Society of America
- Guide Dogs for the Blind
- Humane Rescue Alliance
- International Council on Active Aging
- Mental Health America
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
- National Association for Home Care & Hospice
- National Council on Aging
- North American Veterinary Community
- Petco Foundation
- Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
- Pet Partners
- Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Sick Cells
- University of Maryland, Baltimore
- University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine
- Village to Village Network
- Virginia Commonwealth University
Click here to access: Addressing the Social Isolation and Loneliness Epidemic with the Power of Companion Animals. To learn more about 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.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
+44 203 3047 2629
1. Cigna Ipsos USA loneliness survey. January 2020. Available here: https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2020/cigna-takes-action-to-combat-the-rise-of-loneliness-and-improve-mental-wellness-in-america
2. British Red Cross and Co-op Trapped in a bubble: An Investigation into Triggers for Loneliness in the UK. Conducted by Kantar Public. December 2016. Available here: https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/action-on-loneliness
3. Testimony before the US Senate Aging Committee, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., 2017; https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SCA_Holt_04_27_17.pdf.
4. HABRI and Mars Petcare Loneliness and Social Isolation Study. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence. December 2018.
About Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (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 about HABRI, 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 Petcare Science Institute 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.
More Press Releases
New Handbook for Welcoming Pets at Nation’s Senior Centers
(Washington, D.C.) June 6, 2018 The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) have teamed up develop a handbook focused on helping senior center administrators incorporate pet-friendly programming and policies into their facilities. The handbook, Older Adults and Animal Programming, provides an overview of the scientific research that demonstrates the benefits of human-animal interaction, and a path forward for senior centers looking to develop or expand animal programming. HABRI and NISC first conducted a survey of senior center administrators from across the country to gauge interest in animal programming. A large majority of senior centers surveyed allowed animals in some way, with many senior centers expressing a strong desire for more pet-friendly programs and policies. Responses were received from 113 NISC-member senior center administrators from across America. Of the 28% of respondents that had a current therapy animal program, significant positive health benefits for participants were reported: Improved social interaction 71% Improved mental health 48% Increased physical activity 35% “Scientific research demonstrates the benefits of the human-animal bond for healthy aging – from reducing blood pressure to encouraging social interaction to reducing stress and depression,” said HABRI Executive Director, Steven Feldman. “With this handbook and through our strategic partnership with NCOA and NISC, we can increase opportunities for seniors to experience the healing power of the human-animal bond.” “Only 32% of the senior centers that responded to the survey reported having pet policies in place, so we feel the handbook is a timely and important opportunity to have conversations about the added value that pet programming can provide to the lives of seniors and staff alike,” said Maureen O’Leary, Program Manager for NISC. “We’re excited to provide this excellent...
New Pilot Study to Examine the Impact of a Therapy Dog Intervention on Loneliness and Related Health Outcomes in Vulnerable Populations
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Pet Partners announced today a new research grant to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to investigate the potential for reduced loneliness among people hospitalized for mental health conditions resulting from a program of therapy dog interventions. This project, titled “A Pilot Study to Examine the Impact of a Therapy Dog Intervention on Loneliness and Related Health Outcomes in Patients with Mental Illness,” aims to address key questions to support an animal-assisted intervention (AAI) as an inpatient intervention for these vulnerable individuals. “This pilot study is important to Pet Partners as it will help advance standards of practice in the delivery of animal-assisted therapy for a population that stands to benefit from interaction with friendly, well-trained therapy animals,” said C. Annie Peters, President & CEO of Pet Partners. “In supporting this research, we hope to make an impactful contribution to the field of human-animal interaction and to support the work of volunteer therapy animal teams across the country dedicated to sharing the healing benefits of the human-animal bond with people in need of comfort and support.” “We know that therapy animals can be beneficial to people in the hospital, but there is a need for more scientific studies to investigate their impact on loneliness, and to fully understand what aspects of those interactions are most effective and for whom,” said Nancy Gee, PhD, Professor and Director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) at Virginia Commonwealth University, the study’s principal investigator. “This study seeks to address this gap and provide further support for animal-assisted interventions as a way of addressing loneliness for this at-risk population.” The goal of this new VCU research project is to collect pilot data in a population that is at-risk for loneliness...
HABRI Awards Grant to Green Chimneys
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it had awarded a $24,000 grant to Green Chimneys, a leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational programs, for a new research study, Animal-‐Assisted Social Skills Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This grant to Green Chimneys advances the HABRI Foundation’s mission to better document the effects of animals on human health through scientific research,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “Animals can play a positive role in the lives of those with autism, and we look forward to learning more as a result of this study. Further exploring the effect of dogs on children with ASD, the purpose of this study is to develop and test an animal-assisted social skills intervention. As one of the first research projects undertaken by The Sam & Myra Ross Institute at Green Chimneys, the 12-week study will include a controlled trial with 32 Green Chimneys students ages 8-15, comparing an animal-assisted social skills group and a traditional social skills training group without an animal present. It is predicted that participants in the social skills training group that incorporates work with dogs will exhibit greater levels of change in social skills, perspective taking, theory of mind and decreased feelings of isolation when compared with those participants receiving the traditional social skills training. If significant results are found, it will further demonstrate that animal-assisted interventions are a valid approach for teaching children with ASD the skills necessary to engage with peers and will further support the role of the human-animal bond in advancing children with developmental delays. Green Chimneys’ long history of incorporating animal-assisted activities into therapeutic treatment makes it an ideal laboratory for conducting research in the area of human-animal interaction (HAI),” said Dr. Steven Klee, Green Chimneys Associate Executive...