A study from Florida State University shows, again, how important our pets are to us. Published in The Gerontologist, the study examined depressive symptoms and loneliness among people ages 50 and older who lost a spouse through death or divorce.

The researchers found people without a pet experienced more significant increases in depressive symptoms and a stronger feeling of loneliness than those who had pets. Those who had a pet and experienced the death or divorce of their spouse were no lonelier than older adults who didn’t experience one of those events.

The study used data from a survey about human-animal interaction as part of the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study in 2012. The study then linked the data with additional data collected between 2008 and 2014. Pet owners were participants who had either a cat or dog.

Additional research is needed, but the study shows the potential for developing social policies, such as including companion animals in senior-living facilities. n

Carr, D.C. et al. Psychological Health Benefits of Companion Animals Following a Social Loss. The Gerontologist, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnz109 Science Daily.