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Pet Ownership Impact on Health - Studies

Recent studies from different countries suggest that pet ownership contributes to the improvement of physical and mental health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep, and frailty, among others. Owning a pet has also been associated with the reduction of total health care spending in the US and the UK. Ten recent studies and/or reports that talk about the positive impact that pet ownership has on mental health or physical health are provided below.

Pet Ownership and Survival in the Elderly Hypertensive Population (2017)
  • This research aimed to correlate pet ownership with cardiovascular mortality among hypertensive individuals in Australia.
  • The study showed a 26% and 22% reduction in cardiovascular mortality in individuals who currently owned pets and those who had previously owned them, respectively, compared to individuals who had never owned a pet.
Pet Ownership and Its Influence on Mental Health in Older Adults (2019)
  • This research's objective was to study the impact of pet ownership on the mental health of community-dwelling seniors.
  • According to the study, pet ownership provides companionship, a sense of purpose and meaning, reduces loneliness, and increases socialization. Specific statistics of the results are not publicly available, but the full article is available for $44.
A Cross-Sectional Exploratory Analysis Between Pet Ownership, Sleep, Exercise, Health, and Neighbourhood Perceptions: The Whitehall II Cohort Study (2018)
Association Between Pet Ownership and Coronary Artery Disease in a Chinese Population (2017)
  • This research aimed to study the correlation between pet ownership and coronary artery disease (CAD) among Chinese participants.
  • Results showed that pet owners had a lower risk of developing CAD, especially when owning dogs compared to cats.
Associations between Pet Ownership and Frailty: A Systematic Review (2020)
The Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership (2015)
  • This report analyzes the health care cost savings that pet owners have.
  • The analysis suggests that pet ownership in the US reduces total health care costs, showing that 32.8 million pet owners in the country visit the doctor 0.6 times less each year than non-pet owners. Also, as 23% of dog owners walk their dog five or more times per week, it reduces their incidence of obesity by 4% compared to non-pet owners and decreases obesity-related healthcare spending by $419 million per year.
Companion Animal Economics: The Economic Impact of Companion Animals in the UK (2016)
Social-Emotional Adjustment and Pet Ownership Among Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder (2017)
  • This study aimed to analyze the association between pet ownership and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adolescents.
  • Results of the study suggest that pet ownership improves social-emotional adjustment among adolescents with ASD. The full text of the study can be accessed through an institutional email or purchased for $35.95.
Associations Between Pet Ownership, Posttraumatic Growth, and Stress Symptoms in Adolescents (2020)
  • This study analyzed the association between pet ownership and PTG (posttraumatic growth) and stress symptoms in adolescents who had experienced one or more stressful life events.
  • The research suggests that adolescents with PTG who spend more time with pets have higher growth scores in 'Relating to Others.' These results are attributed to "pets prompting interactions that foster perceptions of support from others." The complete text can be purchased for $44.
Pet Ownership and Children’s Emotional Expression: Propensity Score-Matched Analysis of Longitudinal Data from Japan (2019)

Impact of Pet Health Care Costs on US Pet Owners

Pet owners in the US are increasingly spending on pet health care as the years go by and are financially stressed by large veterinarian bills. However, the majority of owners do not pay for pet health insurance. Some information regarding the impact of pet health care costs on pet owners is provided below.
  • The average veterinary expenditure per visit in the US has increased from $138 to $161, outpacing inflation. This increment is attributed to increased labor and medical equipment costs. According to a recent study, over 50% of pet owners agree that "a $1000 veterinary bill would cause financial stress."
  • One of the major reasons for a pet owner not bringing their pet to the veterinarian is not having money to pay for it. About 5% of pet owners say that cost of care is "more than they thought it was worth," while 23% state that they "lacked the money to pay for care."
  • An unexpected or emergency visit to the veterinarian can cost between $800 and $1,500 and many pet owners "would not be able to cover an unexpected cost as high as $800." About 27% of pet owners would have to borrow or sell belongings if faced with an emergency visit of $400, while 12% would not be able to afford it at all.
  • The total US veterinary expenditure reached $16.62 billion in 2020. This number is attributed to the fact that 95% of US pet owners consider their pet to be a family member and are willing to spend the necessary on their pet's health.
  • Pet owners that have an income of over $55,000 spent an average of $164 more than those with less income. This may be because their disposable income lets them spend beyond essential living expenses.
  • Despite the raising pet health care costs in the US, fewer than 1% of owners have pet health insurance. Nearly 2.2 million pets were covered by health insurance in 2018, representing an 18% increase from 2017. About 98% of the owners of these pets choose accident and illness coverage, paying an annual premium of $566 for dogs and $354 for cats.
  • Owners who have pet health insurance spent an average of $211 more than those without insurance. Also, those with pet health insurance are more likely to utilize more services in one visit and to visit the veterinarian 20% more. Additionally, having pet health insurance drives dog owners to seek necessary treatment to save their dog’s life, instead of choosing euthanasia in complicated cases, but this is limited "when it comes to more expensive treatment options."
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