Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

Dolores Clement


A large percentage of Americans own pets which may impact their health. This study examines pet ownership’s effect on well being in older adults looking at race/ethnicity. A sample of 6,565 older adults (>60) was selected from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey. Pet owners comprised 28.3% of the sample. The theories of symbolic interaction and social integration were used to examine pet ownership’s effect on physical components of well-being. The descriptive results showed statistically significant differences in age, education, income, and marital status between pet owners and non-pet owners. Pet owners were younger, more educate, higher income and married. Similar results were found for Caucasians, African Americans and Mexican Americans. Logistic regression for the entire sample revealed pet owners were more likely to have a positive self perception of health, normal blood pressure, improved function, less chronic conditions, improved function and more falls. Multiple regression revealed pet owners had more hospital stays, but fewer physician visits and nursing home stays than non-pet owners. When examined by race/ethnicity differences were found between pet owners and non-pet owners that differed from the general sample results. This research revealed that pets overall positively impact their owners’ health but it appears to differ based on race/ethnicity. Further research is needed on pet ownership’s effect on older adults specifically in regards to race.


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