Abstract

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world have been in lockdown and are socially distancing, potentially impacting upon people’s mental health. Given the large body of research demonstrating the potential buffering effect of pets against social isolation, this study aimed to examine whether pet presence and human-pet attachment acted as a protective factor against the negative impact of lockdown measures on human mental health over time. 86 participants completed an online survey at three time-points over lockdown, 2-weeks apart. The findings showed no difference between pet owners and non-pet owners. The findings did show that, at the beginning of lockdown, highly attached pet owners self-reported lower psychological wellbeing, and higher scores for depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affect. By time 2 and 3, these differences were no longer found, except for negative affect which was higher at time 2 as well. Highly attached pet owners displayed a reduction in anxiety from time 1 to 2, and a reduction in negative affect between time 2 and 3. Less attached pet owners displayed an increase in negative affect and anxiety from time 1 to 2, and an increase in negative affect from time 2 to 3. Taken together, these findings suggest that having a pet whom one is strongly attached to, may have caused unique hardships at the beginning of the pandemic that could have negatively influenced mental health, but over time, being highly attached to a pet may have been beneficial for reducing anxiety and negative emotions as restrictions began to lift. As the pandemic continues and local areas shift in and out of lockdown long-term, it is prudent that we continue to monitor the impact of these restrictions and ongoing COVID-19 related stressors on the human-pet relationship as well as on both human and pet health and wellbeing.

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Cite as

Hawkins, R. & Brodie, Z. 2020, 'The role of human-pet attachment on people’s mental health and wellbeing over time during COVID-19 lockdown', NRS Mental Health 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting. https://research-portal.uws.ac.uk/en/publications/a20cab6a-2754-464b-baa8-53b096da1d8d

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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