Brooks, H., Rogers, A., Kapadia, D., Pilgrim, J., Reeves, D. and Vassilev, I.
Creature comforts: social networks, pets and the work associated with the management of long-term illness in the UK
Chronic Illness (doi:10.1177/1742395312452620). (PMID:22777565).
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Objectives: To explore in the context of peoples’ personal social networks, the contribution that pets make to ‘the work’ associated with the management of long-term conditions.
Method: Mixed methods survey with nested parallel qualitative study; 300 participants were drawn from diabetes and chronic heart disease registers of General Practices across Greater Manchester in the North West of England. Notions of ‘work’ were used to describe the illness and everyday activities associated with chronic illness.
Results: Nineteen percent of participants identified at least one pet within their network. Pets contributed mostly to managing emotions (emotional work), to enhancing a sense of self identity (biographical work) and to a lesser extent practical tasks (everyday work). There were indicators that pets mediated relationships for people living with a long-term condition through very weak ties with others in domestic and community settings.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that pets have unique qualities and are not simply substitutes for human relationships in long-term condition management. The study has potential implications for furthering a social contextual analysis of chronic illness, the understanding of relationships, and the meaning and the role of companion animals in long-term condition management
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