Social isolation and loneliness are a growing public health epidemic. More than one-third of Americans older than 65 and half of those over 85 live alone. Research shows that social relationships – both quantity and quality – profoundly affect mental and physical health. Scientific research also continues to support pet ownership and human-animal interaction (HAI) for improving social connections, providing social support, decreasing loneliness and depression. Many hospitals, doctor’s offices and healthcare facilities are already incorporating pets in their treatment plans.
HABRI has teamed up with Mars Petcare to explore the potential for companion animals to provide effective relief and to serve as a complementary treatment for social isolation, loneliness, and related health conditions.
A nationally representative survey of pet owners and non-pet owners commissioned by HABRI and Mars Petcare found that:
- 85% of respondents agree interaction that pets can help reduce loneliness
- 76% agree human-pet interactions can help address social isolation
- 72% believe human-animal interaction is good for their community
Of the pet-owning respondents:
- 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely
- 54% say their pet helps them connect with other people
Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals
In May 2019, HABRI and Mars co-hosted the first-ever Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals in Washington, DC. The Summit engaged experts and stakeholders in advancing scientific research, sharing best practices, and overcoming societal barriers to facilitate the vital role of companion animals and human-animal interaction (HAI) in addressing the crisis of social isolation and loneliness.
HABRI is grateful for its partnership with Mars Petcare, which last year became a HABRI Trustee. Together, we will continue to engage the pet care community, researchers, and healthcare practitioners in strengthening the human-animal bond to help address important issue of public health.