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Socioeconomic differentials in the mortality of pets

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1671

Probably reflect the same differences in material circumstances as in their owners

  1. George Davey Smith, Professor of clinical epidemiology,
  2. Brenda Bonnett, Professor
  1. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR
  2. Department of Ruminant Medicine and Epidemiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7019, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

    Papers p 1686

    Factors associated with mortality among dogs have not been extensively studied, though recent work has examined age, breed, and sex distributions of mortality.1 There has, however, been little investigation of socioeconomic differentials in pet mortality. The study by Moloo et al in this week's issue (p 1686) is therefore welcome, although the results should be interpreted with caution.2 They show that the probability of reporting the death of a pet in the past year is greater for young people from less favourable socioeconomic backgrounds than for those from more favourable backgrounds.

    Pet ownership may have some influence on psychological health,3 but it does not itself seem to influence mortality4 and therefore the dynamics of mortality among pet owners are likely to reflect those of the total population. In this regard the socioeconomic inequalities in mortality—shown in a wide range of populations—will be a key feature. There has been considerable research into explanations of socioeconomic differentials in mortality among humans,5 and similar categories of explanation may account for such differentials in pet mortality.

    The “artefact” explanation suggests that socioeconomic differentials in mortality are more apparent than real, resulting from the way data are collected and analysed. In Moloo et al's study a potential artefact is created by the fact …

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