Pets Can Reduce Depression And Loneliness After Spousal Loss, Says New Study

A Psychosomatic Medicine report talked about how bereavement increases the risk of mortality. This it does so by weakening the immune system. Losing a spouse can after all have several negative psychological impacts. Bereavement ups stress and fatigue. A 2007 study linked bereavement to ill physical health too. It said that the risk of death following the passing of one’s spouse is higher in the initial weeks and months following the incident.

Psychological intervention programs can be of assistance in supporting health of those who have undergone the death or separation of a spouse. In fact, a new study points out another factor that can ease the grief. As per researchers from the Florida State University, a pet can help reduce depressive feelings and loneliness after bereavement and divorce. This latest research work was conducted as September is the Healthy Aging Month.

Pets And Health After Spousal Loss

By now, several researches have concluded that have a furry buddy around can boost mood and health. One study showed that pets can make you social and reduce stress as well as anxiety. Another rather recent survey found that pets make owners feel more loved and active. This poll on healthy aging had also found that pet parents noted a decrease in pain.

This new study, that The Gerontologist journal published, assessed the symptoms of depression and loneliness in older adults. Participants were older than 50 years of age and had either experienced divorce or the death of a spouse. Researchers compared those who had lost their spouses to those who stayed married. Then they looked at differences among those who suffered spousal loss with and without the presence of a pet.

Findings showed that those who lost their spouses had higher markers of depression. Of those who experienced bereavement or divorce, those who didn’t have a pet had even more depressive symptoms and loneliness. In comparison, those who did have a pet and had suffered spousal loss weren’t any more depressed or lonely than those who hadn’t been though the experience of spousal loss. The pets covered in this research were cats and dogs.

What Did The Researchers Say?

Lead author of the study, Dawn Carr pointed out the difference between having and not having a pet when one’s suffers spousal loss. He said that while those who have pets experience some depression which is normal, those who don’t have pets experience persistent depression. While these findings show that pets can minimize the negative effects of spousal loss, there is still a need for more research on this matter.

Carr further added regarding spousal loss that “losing that sense of purpose and meaning in our lives that comes from that relationship can be really devastating. A pet might help offset some of those feelings.” This study is especially important as it can impact social policies. This is, however, not the first study that has linked improved quality of life to pets.