Depression among older people (>65 yrs) continues to be a major health concern. Previous studies have shown that animal ownership plays an important role in mental health. The objective of the present population study was to compare the self-rated depression symptoms of both female and male non-pet owners, cat owners, and dog owners. The study included over 12,000 subjects between the ages of 65 and 101. Depression symptoms were measured using a self-questionnaire.
The main results showed higher mean values on the depression scale for cat owners than for both dog and non-pet owners. The latter group rated their depression symptoms the lowest. When dividing the ratings into low- and high-depression symptoms, the analysis showed that it was more likely that males who owned cats perceived lower depression symptoms than females who owned cats. No interactions were recognized between pet ownership and subjective general health status, loneliness, or marital status. Results from population studies like this might increase the available knowledge base when using cats and dogs in clinical environments such as nursing homes. (MK)