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Paws for Thought: A Controlled Study Investigating the Benefits of Interacting with a House-Trained Dog on University Students Mood and Anxiety

By Emily L R Thelwell

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

University students have been found to have higher rates of psychological distress than that of the general population, which reportedly rises significantly upon starting university and does not return to pre-university levels throughout their time in university. It is therefore highly important to find ways to improve student health and well-being. One way that may help is by interacting with animals. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether interacting with a dog would have a positive effect on university students’ mood and anxiety. This study assigned 82 university students to either the experimental condition (dog interaction, n = 41) or to the control condition (dog video, n = 41). The students completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form (PANAS-X), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Pet Attitude Scale before their assigned conditions, to evaluate their mood and anxiety levels and attitudes to animals. The participants again completed the STAI and PANAS-X Form after their condition, to assess for possible changes in anxiety and mood. The findings of the study indicated that all participants, regardless of condition, experienced a reduction in their anxiety and an improvement in their mood across time. However, directly interacting with a dog resulted in greater declines in anxiety and improved mood scores, more so than watching a video. Consequently, it appears there are psychological benefits to be gained by students from interacting with dogs and it is hoped this study will help to inform future best practices in designing student dog interventions.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Animals
Volume 9
Issue 10
Pages 25
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani9100846
URL https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/10/846
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Anxiety
  3. moods
  4. open access
  5. Pet therapy
  6. students
Badges
  1. open access