The human-dog bond as a mediator in the relationship between loneliness and emotional well-being

Caroline Allen, Rachel Hogg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Loneliness is prevalent in contemporary Western society and although it is commonly believed that pets can buffer owners against the effects of loneliness on emotional well-being, empirical research is limited. This study addressed the question of whether loneliness positively predicts the strength of the human-dog bond, and whether the human-dog bond mitigates the deleterious effects of loneliness on emotional well-being. A community sample of Australian pet-dog owners (N = 639: 123 men, 516 women) aged 18-80 participated in the study.Loneliness was conceptualised as a tri-dimensional construct comprised of social-,family-, and romantic-loneliness, while emotional well-being was operationalised in terms of positive and negative affect. Higher social-loneliness and family loneliness predicted higher negative affect, and higher levels of all three types of loneliness predicted lower positive affect. Higher levels of family-loneliness and romantic-loneliness predicted a stronger human-dog bond, which in turn predicted higher positive affect. No relationship was evident between the human-dog bond and either social-loneliness or negative affect. The human-dog bond mediated the relationship between family-loneliness and positive affect as well as the relationship between romantic-loneliness and positive affect. These mediating effects were of the suppressor-type, indicating that the human-dog bond mitigated the deleterious effects of family-loneliness and romantic-loneliness on positive affect. These findings demonstrate the importance of conceptualising loneliness as a multi-dimensional construct in future studies regarding loneliness and human-animal relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-67
Number of pages24
JournalHuman-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume10
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

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