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Pets, Social Participation, and Aging-in-Place: Findings from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

  • Ann M. Toohey (a1), Jennifer A. Hewson (a2), Cindy L. Adams (a3) and Melanie J. Rock (a1)


The objective of this study was to assess whether pet ownership contributes to social participation and life satisfaction for older adults. We used baseline data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) for this purpose, and logistic regression models to estimate associations between social participation and life satisfaction for pet owners and non-owners. One third of all older adults (≥ 65 years, n = 7,474) in our sample reported pet ownership. Pet owners were less likely than non-pet owners to report life satisfaction and to participate frequently in social, recreational, or cultural activities, but pet owners were no less satisfied than were non-owners with their current levels of social participation. For pet owners experiencing barriers to social participation, pets appeared protective of life satisfaction in some circumstances. Both individual characteristics and structural factors linked to the World Health Organization’s age-friendly communities framework were relevant to understanding these findings.

Des données de référence nationales et représentatives de l’Étude longitudinale canadienne sur le vieillissement (ÉLCV) ont été utilisées pour évaluer si la possession d’un animal de compagnie était associée à la participation sociale et à la satisfaction de vivre des personnes âgées (≥65 ans, n= 7,474). Des statistiques descriptives ont permis de distinguer les modalités de la possession d’animaux dans la population canadienne plus âgée, et des modèles de régression logistique ont été utilisés pour estimer les associations entre la participation sociale et la satisfaction de vivre de personnes âgées possédant ou non des animaux. Un tiers des personnes âgées de l’échantillon ont rapporté posséder des animaux. En moyenne, les personnes possédant des animaux avaient une satisfaction de vivre inférieure (OR=0,73, p<0,001) et participaient à moins d’activités sociales, récréatives et culturelles sur une base régulière (OR=0,73, p<0,001) que les personnes sans animaux; cependant, les personnes avec animaux n’étaient pas moins satisfaites de leur niveau actuel de participation sociale que celles sans animaux. Pour les propriétaires d’animaux dont la participation sociale était compromise, les animaux semblaient constituer un facteur de protection dans certaines circonstances. Des caractéristiques individuelles et des facteurs structurels liés au cadre conceptuel des Collectivités amies des aînés de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé ont permis de mieux comprendre ces résultats.


Corresponding author

La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Ann Toohey, Ph.D. Department of Community Health Sciences Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary 3rd Floor, Teaching, Research & Wellness Building 3280 Hospital Drive NW Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6 <>


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This project was funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) operating grant (#MOP-130569) held by Melanie Rock. Additionally, Ann Toohey received funding via a University of Calgary – Achievers in Medical Sciences Recruitment Scholarship; a CIHR-Population Health Intervention Research Network (PHIRNET) Doctoral Studentship; and an Alberta Innovates Graduate Studentship (#201504). This research was made possible using the data collected by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Funding for the CLSA was provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) under grant reference: LSA 9447 and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This research project was conducted using the CLSA dataset Baseline Tracking version 3.0, under Application Number 141206. The CLSA is led by Parminder Raina, Christina Wolfson, and Susan Kirkland.

The authors also thank three anonymous reviewers from this journal for their valuable comments, as well as Daniel Dutton, James Gillett, David Hogan, Parminder Raina, and Debbie Stoewen for conceptual input.



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