Description: Loneliness is a significant problem for older adults and can lead to negative health and social outcomes. Having a companion pet is beginning to be recognized as a way loneliness can be reduced for older persons. The purpose of this descriptive study was to determine the effect of pets on the level of loneliness in persons 60 years old or older who live alone and independently in a large metropolitan community in the North Central Texas area. Using a non-random snowball sample of older individuals (N = 252), who met the study criteria, each subject was administered the researcher-developed demographic data survey instrument containing the following variables: (a) pets - having a pet/wanting a pet, (b) age, (c) gender, (d) marital status, (e) living alone, (f) losses within the last six months, (g) interactions with family members, (h) interactions with others outside of the family, (i) highest educational level achieved, (j) employment or volunteer involvement in the community, (k) religious participation, and (l) self perceived health status. The UCLA Loneliness Scale Version 3 was used to obtain the loneliness scores. Prediction of loneliness and relationship with the independent variables was tested using frequency, correlation, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and multivariate analysis using ordinary least-squares (OLS) regression analysis. The findings from this study showed that those older adults living alone who did not have a pet but would like to have a companion pet had higher levels of loneliness (p<0.05). Other findings suggested that older adults' loneliness was less if they had moderate religious participation and interactions with others (p< 0.05). Future studies are needed to examine the effects that pets have on feelings of loneliness and the ability of older individuals to cope effectively with those feelings.
Date: December 2006
Creator: Nunnelee, Jane Baker