Just Ten Minutes With Cats or Dogs Can ‘Significantly’ Reduce Stress

It is well known that dogs are man’s best friend; now, research has proven that dogs are also man’s best therapist.

Aug 3, 2019

Tags:

Pets, Stress

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Anyone with a pet can attest that their furry friend often makes them smile and feel less alone. Significant research over the years has even scientifically proven that pets can reduce stress and improve mood. The newest such study seeks to test out the role of pets in helping to reduce student stress while on campus.

The study observed cortisol levels in 249 students who were separated into three groups. The first group of students was free to play with cats and dogs from a nearby shelter for 10 minutes. The second group waited in line and only observed the other students petting animals. The third group was given just a slideshow of animals to watch, and the fourth group sat and waited for their turns on a never-ending waitlist.

The analysis revealed that cortisol levels were significantly reduced for those students who had interacted and physically played with the pets. Cortisol works with the brain to control mood, motivation, and fear, and is secreted in response to stress. The study found that regardless of students’ cortisol levels at the beginning of the day, levels were significantly reduced after the animal interaction.

Authors of the study, Patricia Pendry and Jaymie L. Vandagriff from Washington State University were thrilled at the discovery that just 10 minutes of interacting with pets can affect stress levels. They plan to continue the study with a 4-week program.

It is more important than ever to study stress reduction techniques at universities, as stress levels are at an all-time high among college students. Numerous universities have already begun to integrate animal-assisted therapies onto campuses through programs such as “pet the stress away.”

The authors of the study conclude that brief animal visitation programs have a high chance of being effective:

"Given that one-on-one and group interactions with animals have reduced individuals' cortisol levels in therapeutic and health care settings in the past, our results add to the evidence for the efficacy of brief, universal, university-based animal visitation programs to reduce university students' physiological stress.”

It's incredible what just 10 minutes of pet playtime could do to combat stress!

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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