Pet ownership and symptoms of depression: A prospective study of older adults.
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Background:This paper aims to examine associations between pet ownership and symptoms of depression in alarge, population-based sample of older adults. Specifically, we tested whether: (i) people who report moredepressive symptoms are more likely to own a pet; (ii) pet ownership protects against an increase in depressivesymptoms over time; (iii) associations differ by symptom type.Methods:Data were drawn from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a longitudinal panel study of men andwomen aged 50 and older (n= 7,617, 52.5% female). Pet ownership (dog/cat/other/none) was self-reported in2010/11. Depressive symptoms were assessed in 2010/11 and 2016/17 using the 8-item centre forEpidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale. We analysed total CES-D score and derived symptom subscales(depressed mood, anhedonia, somatic symptoms) in relation to pet ownership, adjusting for sociodemographicand health-related covariates.Results:A one-symptom increase in total CES-D score was associated with 7% increased odds of dog ownership(OR=1.07, 95% CI 1.03–1.11). Significant associations were observed between each subset of depressivesymptoms and dog ownership, with models run on z-scores showing a slightly stronger association for symptomsof depressed mood (OR=1.13, 95% CI 1.06–1.21) compared with anhedonia (OR=1.10, 95% CI 1.04–1.17) orsomatic symptoms (OR=1.10, 95% CI 1.03–1.18). Prospectively, no significant associations were found.Limitations:Self-reported data; small sample size for some pet categories. Conclusion:Amongst older adults in England, those with more depressive symptoms are more likely to own adog, but pet ownership is not significantly associated with change in depressive symptoms over time.