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The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence

The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence
The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence

Background: There is increasing recognition of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to the comprehensive role of companion animals and how pets might contribute to the work associated with managing a long-term mental health condition. The aim of this study was to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition. Methods: A systematic search for studies exploring the role of companion animals in the management of mental health conditions was undertaken by searching 9 databases and undertaking a scoping review of grey literature from the earliest record until March 2017. To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to be published in English and report on primary data related to the relationship between domestic animal ownership and the management of diagnosable mental health conditions. Synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data was undertaken in parallel using a narrative synthesis informed by an illness work theoretical framework. Results: A total of 17 studies were included in the review. Quantitative evidence relating to the benefits of pet ownership was mixed with included studies demonstrating positive, negative and neutral impacts of pet ownership. Qualitative studies illuminated the intensiveness of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis. The negative aspects of pet ownership were also highlighted, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet has. Conclusion: This review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.

Mental health, Narrative synthesis, Networks of support, Personal communities, Pets, Self-management, Systematic review
1471-244X
Brooks, Helen Louise
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Rushton, Kelly
eb3f5279-ef7b-4ba2-9e89-8ba7a52e23ac
Lovell, Karina
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Bee, Penny
76e373ee-12be-4966-8bb6-8157e1dc037d
Walker, Lauren
b68adbc8-08f1-447b-a26b-6be2f601cf0f
Grant, Laura
11cae106-8e36-4618-8e75-1225bfd13e01
Rogers, Anne
105eeebc-1899-4850-950e-385a51738eb7
Brooks, Helen Louise
595eb8f9-a4d7-47ec-b67c-a9b0c0e5306a
Rushton, Kelly
eb3f5279-ef7b-4ba2-9e89-8ba7a52e23ac
Lovell, Karina
5d35b37c-4545-4ba4-a66c-9d94e1e9e780
Bee, Penny
76e373ee-12be-4966-8bb6-8157e1dc037d
Walker, Lauren
b68adbc8-08f1-447b-a26b-6be2f601cf0f
Grant, Laura
11cae106-8e36-4618-8e75-1225bfd13e01
Rogers, Anne
105eeebc-1899-4850-950e-385a51738eb7

Brooks, Helen Louise, Rushton, Kelly, Lovell, Karina, Bee, Penny, Walker, Lauren, Grant, Laura and Rogers, Anne (2018) The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry, 18 (1). (doi:10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Background: There is increasing recognition of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to the comprehensive role of companion animals and how pets might contribute to the work associated with managing a long-term mental health condition. The aim of this study was to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition. Methods: A systematic search for studies exploring the role of companion animals in the management of mental health conditions was undertaken by searching 9 databases and undertaking a scoping review of grey literature from the earliest record until March 2017. To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to be published in English and report on primary data related to the relationship between domestic animal ownership and the management of diagnosable mental health conditions. Synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data was undertaken in parallel using a narrative synthesis informed by an illness work theoretical framework. Results: A total of 17 studies were included in the review. Quantitative evidence relating to the benefits of pet ownership was mixed with included studies demonstrating positive, negative and neutral impacts of pet ownership. Qualitative studies illuminated the intensiveness of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis. The negative aspects of pet ownership were also highlighted, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet has. Conclusion: This review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.

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Accepted/In Press date: 18 January 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 5 February 2018
Keywords: Mental health, Narrative synthesis, Networks of support, Personal communities, Pets, Self-management, Systematic review

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 417981
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/417981
ISSN: 1471-244X
PURE UUID: 595afb9c-024b-4fe9-98b6-1c9b42f3b611

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Date deposited: 20 Feb 2018 17:30
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:51

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Contributors

Author: Helen Louise Brooks
Author: Kelly Rushton
Author: Karina Lovell
Author: Penny Bee
Author: Lauren Walker
Author: Laura Grant
Author: Anne Rogers

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