A framework for understanding how activities associated with dog ownership relate to human well-being

Barcelos, Ana Maria, Mills, Daniel, Kargas, Niko , Maltby, John and Hall, Sophie (2020) A framework for understanding how activities associated with dog ownership relate to human well-being. Scientific Reports, 10 . p. 11363. ISSN 2045-2322

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68446-9

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A framework for understanding how activities associated with dog ownership relate to human well-being
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Abstract

There is notorious inconsistency regarding mental health benefits of dog ownership, partially due to repeated cross-sectional studies comparing dog owners and non-owners, without taking into account the heterogeneity of dog-owner dyads, especially the activities with which the owners are involved. This study aimed to develop a comprehensive framework of the most important dog human related activities and their impact on owner well-being. Six focus groups with 35 dog owners were conducted, and their audio transcripts thematically analysed. Dog human related activities and themes of activities were linked to their reported changes in well-being through matrix coding. A framework of 58 dog human related activities linked with their specific hedonic well-being, life satisfaction and eudaimonic well-being outcomes was generated. Most activities were reported to improve owner’s well-being, (e.g. human–dog tactile interaction increases owner’s self-esteem), and a minority was mainly associated with negative outcomes. The richness of the framework presented in this study reinforces the importance of assessing dog ownership well-being outcomes based on specific dog human related activities with which dog owners are involved. This new and systematic investigative approach should decrease inconsistencies in the field and facilitate mental health interventions and study designs of a higher level of evidence.

Introduction
Mental health problems are one of the main disease burdens of society and are growing worldwide1. In the United Kingdom, mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability, with estimated costs of £105 billion a year; one in four adults in the country suffers at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year2. Psychological changes led by pet ownership may have an important impact on mental health, with associated economic savings (£2.5 billion/year—UK)3. However, studies in this field are inconsistent, and how pet ownership might impact on human well-being has not been explored systematically. Heterogeneity within important aspects of pet ownership (e.g. amount of exercise undertaken, level of disclosure of personal emotional information with their dogs) may explain why some individuals may benefit while others do not4,5,6. It is therefore not surprising that investigations on depression have shown pet ownership improves7,8,9, as well as makes no difference10,11,12 and even worsens the condition13,14. Similar contradictions extend to other aspects of well-being, such as loneliness8,15, stress13,16, anxiety13,17, human functioning11,18 and life satisfaction19,20.

Keywords:dogs, human well-being
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D390 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:44210
Deposited On:29 Mar 2021 11:31

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