Quality of the human–animal bond and mental wellbeing during a Covid-19 lockdown

Deborah L. Wells*, Megan A. Clements, Laura J. Elliott, Eimear S. Meehan, Cora J. Montgomery, Grace A. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
233 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Companion animal ownership has been associated with a wide variety of physical and psychological health benefits. The extent to which a person gains any welfare advantages from the animal in their care, however, may be related to a wide variety of factors, one of which is the quality of the human–animal relationship. Thus far, little attention has been devoted to the role of attachment to one's companion animal on psychological wellbeing during a global pandemic, a time when mental health has been shown to be extremely poor. Therefore this study aimed to explore the relationship between the quality of the companion animal–human bond and mental wellbeing during a period of COVID-19-induced national lockdown in the United Kingdom. A purpose-designed online survey that aimed to measure sociodemographic background, companion animal ownership status, attachment level, and various components of mental wellbeing (depression, loneliness, positive experience, stress) was developed and completed by 249 UK-based adults (146 companion animal owners, 103 non-owners). Analysis revealed no significant relationship between companion animal ownership and any of the mental health outcome measures. Attachment to one's companion animal, however, was found to be a strong predictor of mental wellbeing, with higher bonds of attachment associated with higher levels of depression, loneliness, and lower levels of positive experience. Attachment to one's companion animal was not significantly associated with participants’ stress levels. Overall, findings from this study point to emotional vulnerability in people who are highly attached to their companion animal, although limitations must be borne in mind. This is an area worthy of further exploration, particularly considering the pandemic-induced rise in the number of people who have acquired a companion animal and the increment in mental health problems that has been predicted to emerge from COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-866
JournalAnthrozoos
Volume35
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • companion animals
  • COVID-19
  • human–animal interaction
  • mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Anthropology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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