The rise in psychological problems, attrition and suicide rates of university students has been linked to the stressful challenges faced during university life. To buffer this, Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) may assist in improving psychological and physiological well-being in students, however, to date, there is little empirical evidence for their effectiveness. Consequently, this study explored the psychological and physiological benefits of AAA in a sample of undergraduate students. Sixty-two students from two local universities participated in an hour-long AAA session delivered by Therapy Dogs Singapore (TDS). Measures of perceived stress, anxiety, state self-esteem, and blood pressure (BP) were taken before and after the sessions. The results indicated that students experienced significant decreases in state anxiety, systolic and diastolic BP post AAA, and when compared to a quiet reading comparison session. State self-esteem increased post AAA and, further, was found to moderate the change in anxiety in addition to perceived stress, whereby, perceived anxiety reduced more in those with low state self-esteem and high perceived stress. These results suggest that AAA can be an effective intervention for stress among undergraduate students, which utilizes a novel, easy to implement and enjoyable approach for Singaporean students.
|Publication Title||Asian Journal of Social Psychology|