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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Jul;57(7):M428-32.

The effects of animal-assisted therapy on loneliness in an elderly population in long-term care facilities.

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  • 1Nursing Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri 63106, USA.



Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is claimed to have a variety of benefits, but almost all published results are anecdotal. We characterized the resident population in long-term care facilities desiring AAT and determined whether AAT can objectively improve loneliness.


Of 62 residents, 45 met inclusion criteria for the study. These 45 residents were administered the Demographic and Pet History Questionnaire (DPHQ) and Version 3 of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (UCLA-LS). They were then randomized into three groups (no AAT; AAT once/week; AAT three times/week; n = 15/group) and retested with the UCLA-LS near the end of the 6-week study.


Use of the DPHQ showed residents volunteering for the study had a strong life-history of emotional intimacy with pets and wished that they currently had a pet. AAT was shown by analysis of covariance followed by pairwise comparison to have significantly reduced loneliness scores in comparison with the no AAT group.


The desire for AAT strongly correlates with previous pet ownership. AAT reduces loneliness in residents of long-term care facilities.

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