The perceived positive benefits of having pets in the family home for children’s health may be unfounded, a new study has determined.
The latest research, published in the journal Anthrozoos , is the largest-ever study to explore the link between pets and children’s health. It used advanced statistical tools to control for multiple factors that could contribute to a child’s wellbeing other than pet ownership such as higher family income, or living in a more affluent area.
The study analysed data from more than 2,200 children who lived in pet-owning households and 3,000 households without a dog or cat. Initial results showed that children in pet-owning households were significantly healthier than children in non-owning households in terms of better general health, higher activity level, and less concern from parents regarding mood, behaviour, and learning ability. Yet when these were adjusted for confounding effects using a double robust regression analysis, the positive effect of pet ownership was no longer statistically significant.
“We could not find evidence that children from families with dogs or cats are better off either in terms of their mental wellbeing or their physical health,” said Layla Parast, co-author of the study and statistician at RAND, a nonprofit research organisation.