The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 1999
Research Theme: "The Relationship of Keeping a Companion Animal to IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) and Blood Pressure for Elderly People Living at Home — Research Conducted in Satomi Village, Ibaraki Prefecture"

By Masaru Uechi and Tomoko Saito
Scholarship recipient Masaru Uechi is currently an assistant in the department of social medicine at Tsukuba University. The focus of his research was the relationship between the health of the elderly and the keeping of companion animals. Satomi Village, where the research was conducted, is located at the northernmost edge of Ibaraki Prefecture; 27.4% of its population is classified as elderly. In 2050, the proportion of elderly in Japan's population is expected to peak at 32.3%, a figure close to that for Satomi Village. In Satomi Village, moreover, the elderly who live alone are increasing, and the burdens on regional society from costs related to insurance, medical treatment, welfare and other matters related to the elderly have already begun to grow. The location where this research was conducted could thus be said to have a population structure and problems that closely resemble what will be those of the country as a whole in the 21st century.

At the same time, with the graying of society already under way, there are not a few elderly who are bedridden. As this fact indicates, the health of the elderly cannot be judged by longevity alone. Thus, to make such a determination, an index, IADL (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living), was developed. According to this index, seven activities considered indispensable for daily living — Can one use the telephone by oneself? Can on buy food and clothing by oneself? etc. — are studied as indicators of health, and a person who is unable to perform one or more of them is considered to have an "IADL disability." In the IADL-related research published hitherto, a tendency for people with IADL disabilities to die sooner rather than later has been reported.

Of the 1,345 people aged 65 or older in Satomi Village, 400 were selected at random for this research. They were sent questionnaires to fill out, and a telephone follow-up was then conducted. In this way, they were studied with regard to: personal characteristics such as sex, age, and family structure; medical history, including the names of past diseases; current state of health, including whether blood pressure reducers were being taken; and state of daily activities. At the same time, their relationship to companion animals was also studied: whether they were presently keeping pets and, if so, the type of pet and the number of years it had been kept; past pet ownership; etc. A logistic recurrence analysis was then carried out on the correlations between the two sets of data. (A logistic recurrence analysis is a study that seeks to explain, using a few variables, the probability, or expectation, that a particular phenomenon will occur.) "Regarding the relationship between keeping pets and IADL disabilities," said Mr. Uechi, "what we found was that the proportion of people with IADL disabilities who had experience with keeping pets was lower than the proportion who had no such experience. There was also a low proportion of IADL disabilities among respondents who, to a question asking them to rate their fondness for pets, answered, "To me a pet is a friend," from which we concluded that keeping pets has psychological benefits. In other words, we found that keeping dogs, a history of fondness for animals, and friendly feelings towards pets in general are all factors in limiting the IADL disabilities of the elderly. The greater the affection lavished on pets, the less blood pressure reducers were used is another trend that was found. While we cannot prove a connection between keeping pets and low blood pressure, we believe that is only because of insufficient data, and plan to do follow-up research in the future.