Typologies of older adult companion animal owners and non-owners: moving beyond the dichotomy.

TitleTypologies of older adult companion animal owners and non-owners: moving beyond the dichotomy.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCarr, DC, Taylor, MG, Gee, NR, Sachs-Ericsson, NJ
JournalAging & Mental Health
ISSN Number1364-6915
KeywordsPets, Social Support

OBJECTIVES: Research on the influence of companion animals (CA) on the health of older adults has yielded contradictory results. Selection factors, leading to heterogeneity both between and within groups of CA owners and non-owners, likely bias results. We conduct analyses to identify typologies of owners and non-owners.

METHODS: Using data on older adults (60+) from the 2012 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and the HRS companion animal module, (owners = 478) and (non-owners = 624), we conducted latent class analyses (LCA). We used key demographic, health, daily engagement, and pet characteristic variables to complete our analyses.

RESULTS: Analyses revealed five clusters of CA owners and four clusters of non-owners. Health and CA related characteristics distinguishing clusters suggest important sources of variability and reflect qualitatively different profiles of owners and non-owners. We also found CA owners were more likely than non-owners to be high on neuroticism and to be less extroverted than non-owners-but again there was considerable within group variability.

IMPLICATIONS: Factors that select people into pet ownership not only work individually to characterize ownership, they create distinct typologies of CA owners and non-owners that likely contribute to subsequent health outcomes. In order to determine if having a CA is beneficial to health in later life and for whom, future research should consider selection factors like those identified in the typologies. Statistical analyses, such as LCA, that can adequately account for these selection factors is necessary to avoid biases in the interpretation of results.

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Alternate JournalAging Ment Health
Citation Key9943
PubMed ID30380913