The Influence of Pet Ownership in Loneliness
The Influence of Pet Ownership in Loneliness
The idea of owning pets becomes widely spread nowadays as pets are promoted as being beneficial to health and companionship. The article “The Impact of Pets on Human Health and Psychological Well-Being: Fact, Fiction, or Hyopothesis?” by Harold Herzog considers evidence of whether pets contribute to owners’ psychological and physical health. While mentioning “pet effect”, the author discusses the advantages of owning pets as providing owners a sense of belongings and helps with curing chronic mental disease such as autism and depression; however, as level of loneliness and happiness cannot be scientifically measure, he points out the “file drawer effect”, studies do not support on the idea of pets impacting people (Herzog 181). According to British Columbia’s SPCA, the number of adopting dogs and cats increases significantly annually. Family pets such as dogs and cats are being seen as “friends to human” and having a friend living which will decrease loneliness.
As more families and bachelor start to own pets, it is to be believed that pets brighten moods and keep negative thoughts away. It is to be seen that pets getting more involved into the human’s lives, especially for the people who lives alone, elderly and childhood, the idea of pets impacting psychological and physical health become questionable. Now, here is the question, do pets really contribute to the loneliness? Interactions with family pets such as dogs and cats show increase in social support and lower level of loneliness (Antonacopoulos 52). People who live by themselves tend to “lack securities”(40) and look for communication and interactions with others. This group of population tends to have lower social support and pessimistic.
According to Anatoacopoulos’s experiment, people who live alone show higher level of loneliness compared to the ones who live with families. Although pets cannot help with problem solving in daily lives, the “cuteness”(45) appearance calm down owners’ frustrations when they face difficulties; providing accompanies make owners feel less lonely when them arrive home. The study of Anatoacopoulos argues indirect relationship between human and pets. In reality, some may argue that problems still stay unsolved as owners will get back to the negative thoughts sooner. Further, pets can neither cure chronic mental disease nor building stronger body. However, pets act as a “stepping stone” towards achieving building self-esteem and become healthier by increase of exercise. Lots of people adopt dogs because they are loyal to owners and out for walking make them more approachable to neighbors. For instance, owning a medium/large size dog can not only provide securities for home; but also increase the frequency of exercise such as walking which becomes beneficial to physical health.
Even though pets cannot solve problems like a human, but being there already make it meaningful for owners, especially the ones who live by themselves. Apart from people who live alone, pets also perform important roles on childhood. Kids who grow up with pets are reported to become lovable and have strong thoughts of protecting animals. One of the most well-known method to study relationship between human and pets is the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP). It is widely used by Behaviorists to examine the bond between pets and human among different ages. Using the method SSP, reactions of dogs and children during experiments are observed. Focusing on the group of children, it is found that pets are easily accepted by children at their “age of curiosity”as the more activities they involved in, they become close quickly.(Rehn 3) The most “favorable” animals, dogs and cats are portrayed as friendly by advertisements and cartoons on TV, kids are encouraged to have more interactions with pets.
For instance, a Youtube video showing kids playing with dogs in backyard at the house tend to receive huge amount of “like” by audiences. This image of “friendliness” touches people’s heart therefore kids in the new generation grow up to have stronger mind of protecting animals. Parents tend to personify dogs and cats to act as “best friends” to their children’s childhood. When the dog is accompanied with a familiar person such as family member, kids are more likely to show involvedness with them. Interactions such as throwing balls and feeding food bond them closer, quickly they become “friends” as the more chances they social (5). Through observations, dogs and kids view each other as “partners” after a few weeks. Kids forget about sadness that parents are not in the room and only focus on interacting with dogs.
The observation predicts a new topic of impact between human and pets can be both directions. They can be influenced each other. Once trust is being built, pets will view owners as “friends” and “family members” and human views pets as companionship to seek for fun and stress relief. Owners see dogs as part of the family and dogs become protective to owners such as they start to bark when they feel alerted to danger. The process of building trust between kids and pets is important because it contributes as a factor of whether pets can lower level of loneliness and ultimately affect psychological health. On the topic of “pet effect”, large studies are examined on the group of elderly to testify whether pets can cure loneliness. Seniors are despair when they are separate with children and possibly partners so they are sensitive and easily emotional attached. Lots of the nursing homes own dogs and cats in order to brighten elderly’s mood. Pets are believed to facilitate happiness to the elderly.
Earlier in Herzog’s article, he mentions that having a “play partner” make owners feel “love and care”(Herzog, 181). This impact becomes vivid on the elderly, reported by the journal article published by Gerontological Nursing on 2008. In order to have more accurate results, robot dogs are provided to the elderly in the study to avoid the elderly who have allergy and phobia with dogs. 7 weeks of observations show the seniors become familiar with the robot dogs and start to show care when they approach to the robot dogs every time. Living in nursing home to make the elderly suffer loneliness as they separate with family members, robot dogs provide them fun and they feel like something to love and care for (Real or…). This study may not directly contribute to the topic of loneliness but also serves as a factor that pets perform vital roles on human.
Seniors living in nursing home report that they have the need of feeling senses of belonging and the experiments of approaching robot dogs show increase of emotional support and make them to forget loneliness for a short moment. The “file drawer effect” Herzog mentioned in his article undermines the argument that pets are important to people’s mental health. Researches may lack of accuracy as level of loneliness is hard to measure by showing statistic but instead, mostly examined by observation and survey. The sample size selected may be biased by their points of view and background information. The ones with intense reaction may be favored to pets or may have history of owning pets. Happiness and loneliness is subjective, a person’s psychological health is hard to determine by observation and survey. Pets are not necessary be the main factor of curing depression and loneliness; however, interactions with pets provide more relaxation than comfortlessness.
Furthermore, adopting pets such as large size of dogs require lots of patience and responsibilities. If they are not taken enough care of, this might cause problems which ultimately become against to the idea of pets serving as friends to human. Pets provide love and fun to humans is not in doubt; however, owners’ actions may affect pets such as not training dogs well enough may cause danger to others. Therefore, psychological health may not be directly affected by the interactions with pets but they definitely perform vital roles of health benefits. The bond between human and pets require further discoveries.
Owning pets is promoted as being part of a healthy living as they provide more care than harm. “Pet effects”(Herzog, 181) can be both directions such as human’s loneliness can be affected by pets and pets’ loneliness can be affected by human. In short-run, pets contribute to owners’ loneliness to people who live alone, the elderly and children; but overall in the long-run, pets require more time to be taken care of which possibly increase the level of stress. Whether pets serve to decrease loneliness can be biased by owners and this topic is encouraged to be further testified.