Association between pet ownership and physical activity and mental health during the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” in Singapore


Introduction: The negative impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on mental health and physical activity is well reported. While prior studies showed a positive influence of pet ownership on physical activity and mental health, the interactions between the pandemic and pet ownership are not well studied.

Objective: To determine the association between pet ownership, physical activity levels and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Materials and methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted from May 19 to July 13, 2020 among Singapore residents aged 21 to 64 years through a previously published questionnaire. Inverse probability treatment weighting was used to develop mixed-effects models for outcome comparisons. We recorded participant data on pet ownership, duration and intensity of physical activity, and RAND 36-item Health Survey mental health domains during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: The questionnaire was completed by 431 pet owners and 103 non-pet owners. A greater proportion of pet owners were female, non-married, employed and owned pets in the past. Pet owners reported 31.8 (95% CI 13.6 to 50; p = .001) more minutes per week of mild-intensity physical activity compared to non-pet owners. No statistically significant differences were found for moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity. Pet owners had better emotional well-being ( = 9.66, 95% CI 4.97 to 14.4; p < .001), energy ( = 8.29, 95% CI 3.46 to 13.1; p = .001) and social functioning ( = 11.2, 95% CI 5.03 to 17.4; p < .001) scores than non-pet owners. However, no statistically significant difference was observed for general health scores. Pet owner physical activity levels, general health, emotional well-being and energy scores correlated positively with pet attachment scores.

Conclusion: Pet ownership was associated with greater physical activity levels and better mental health, particularly in main caregivers with higher pet attachment scores. These findings suggest that pet ownership is beneficial to physical and mental well-being during periods of social isolation amidst a global pandemic.

Citation: Tan JSQ, Fung W, Tan BSW, Low JY, Syn NL, Goh YX, Pang J. Association between pet ownership and physical activity and mental health during the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” in Singapore. One Health. 2021 Nov 3;13:100343. doi: 10.1016/j.onehlt.2021.100343. PMID: 34805473; PMCID: PMC8581575.

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