Human-Animal Interaction, Social Networks, and Health Status
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Using online survey data and applying a series of multiple linear regression analyses, this thesis unraveled a set of intriguing and unexpected results on the impacts of human-animal interaction (HAI) on human mental and physical health status, while leaving some aspects to be further explored and explained by way of future studies. The results of this study also provided insights on how human-human interaction (HHI) in the form of social networks impact college students in a U.S. southern border city. Results of this study indicated that while HAI positively impacted mental health (i.e., lowered depression score), it also was a risk-factor for physical health (i.e., increased body mass index). Furthermore, HHI was found to be a risk-factor to physical health in the sense that the more time spent with social networks the more likely one was to be overweight. Although there are limited studies on HAI in regards to its impacts on human mental and physical health in general and among college students in particular, HIA is an emerging research topic within sociology, which has steadily gained appreciation and interest from many contemporary sociologists. The findings to this thesis advances the theoretical knowledge base and the methodological techniques in the sociology of HAI. These findings also contribute to the sociology of health by producing the much-needed cases, data, and empirical evidence on how animal companions influence humans’ health status. A manifest message from this thesis is: animal companions impact a person’s human health; however, this is observed only for canine (dogs) animal companions but not for feline animal companion (cats). But again, this might be an artifact of the sample and sample size, inaccuracies in measurements, the nature of the target population, or the culture of the study location. However, a latent message hinted by the results is that the type (canine, feline, etc.) of animal companion might have a conditioning (moderating) effect on a person’s health status.