A first-of-its-kind study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health recently examined how owning pets relates to the physical and mental health of gay and bisexual prostate cancer survivors. The study, led by PhD student Morgan Wright, was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health.
The study evaluated the association between owning dogs, cats, both animals, or no animals and quality of life among 189 older gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men and were also prostate cancer survivors. The men answered questions about their mental health and pet ownership as part of the larger Restore I prostate cancer study.
The study found:
Mr. Wright said a possible explanation for why some pet owners had lower mental health scores could be that they worried about the wellbeing of their animals at the same time they were undergoing cancer treatment in the hospital. On the other hand, Wright explained that it might be that people in the study with lower mental health scores are attracted to owning pets for their companionship and other physical or psychological benefits.
Mr. Wright suggests continuing the research by investigating how pets effect the emotional wellbeing of gay and bisexual older men to determine if animals really can provide social support similar to that experienced by heterosexual men, which may include children and greater extended family.