How Living with Pets and Others Relates to Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic has been a time marked by significant hardship for many. It has led to significant negative impacts on mental health (MH), and significant limitations for people to connect and find support through socialization. As a result, many have turned to animals as a substitute for human connection, evidenced by large increases in animal adoptions and purchases during the pandemic. Research suggests that in many contexts, animal ownership and companionship may help improve MH. However, during the pandemic, living with an animal could be a burden (e.g., due to financial pressures) and have a negative impact on MH. To this end, our study investigated how living with animals during the pandemic was related to MH. Participants (N=600) were recruited from MacEwan University and asked about several topics related to MH, their living situation (i.e., did they live with pets, other people, alone, or some combination), and other demographic factors. Analyses revealed that living with a pet during the pandemic was related to increased levels of anxiety and depression, as well as decreased happiness. However, for pet owners, stronger attachment to their pet was associated with less anxiety. Additionally, our data provided confirmatory support for several established findings such as there being a positive correlation between COVID-19 stress and general feelings of anxiety and depression, and a negative correlation between COVID-19 stress and feelings of happiness. Our results expand knowledge on the impact of human-animal interaction and MH, particularly when related to a global health emergency.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Eric Legge
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