To explore associations between pets, and specifically dog ownership and sleep, health, exercise and neighbourhood.
Cross sectional examination of 6575 participants of the Whitehall II study aged between 59 and 79 years. We used self-assessed measurement scales of the Short Form (SF36), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), Control, Autonomy, Self-realisation and Pleasure (CASP), Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), sleep, exercise, and perceptions of local neighbourhood. In addition the Mini Mental State Examination which is administered to test global cognitive status (MMSE).
We found 2/7 people owned a pet and of those 64% were "very" attached to their pet. Mild exercise in metabolic equivalents (MET-hours) was significantly higher in pet owners than non-owners (median 27.8 (IQR 18.1 to 41.8) vs 25.7 (IQR 16.8 to 38.7), p = 0.0001), and in dog owners than other pets (median 32.3 (IQR 20.8 to 46.1) vs 25.6 (IQR 16.8 to 38.5), p < 0.0001). Moderate exercise was also significantly higher in pet owners than non pet owners (median 11.8 (IQR 4.2 to 21.9) vs 9.8 (IQR 2.8 to 19.5), p < 0.0001), and dog owners than owners of other pets (median 12.3 (IQR 4.2 to 22.2) vs 10.1 (3.1 to 20.0), p = 0.0002) but there were no significant differences with vigorous exercise. We found that pet owners were significantly more positive about their neighbourhood than non-owners on 8/9 questions, while dog owners were (significantly) even more positive than owners of other pets on 8/9 questions. Associations with sleep were mixed, although dog owners had less trouble falling asleep than non-dog owners, with borderline statistical significance.
Dog owners feel more positive about their neighbourhood, do more exercise, and fall asleep more easily than non-dog owners. These results suggest that dog owners could be more likely to exercise by walking their dogs and therefore may be more familiar and positive about the area in which they walk their dog.