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Animal-Assisted Interventions for the Improvement of Mental Health Outcomes in Higher Education Students: A Systematic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials

By C. Parbery-Clark, M. Lubamba, L. Tanner, E. McColl

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the effectiveness of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAIs), particularly Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal-Assisted Activity (AAA), in improving mental health outcomes for students in higher education. The number of students in higher education reporting mental health problems and seeking support from universities' student support services has risen over recent years. Therefore, providing engaging interventions, such as AAIs, that are accessible to large groups of students are attractive. METHODS: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase and Cochrane Library were searched from relative inception to end of April 2020. Additionally, a grey literature search was undertaken. Independent screening, data extraction and risk of bias assessment were completed, with varying percentages, by two reviewers. RESULTS: After de-duplication, 6248 articles were identified of which 11 studies were included in the narrative synthesis. The evidence from randomised controlled trials suggests that AAIs could provide short-term beneficial results for anxiety in students attending higher education but with limited evidence for stress, and inconclusive evidence for depression, well-being and mood. For the non-statistically significant results, the studies either did not include a power calculation or were under-powered. CONCLUSIONS: Potential emerging evidence for the short-term benefits of AAI for anxiety, and possibly stress, for students in higher education was found.

Publication Title Int J Environ Res Public Health
Volume 18
Issue 20
ISBN/ISSN 1661-7827 (Print)1660-4601
DOI 10.3390/ijerph182010768
Author Address Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.Newcastle City Council, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8QH, UK.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animals
  4. Anxiety
  5. Assessment
  6. Health care
  7. Humans
  8. Mental health and well-being
  9. open access
  10. Stress
  11. students
  12. systematic reviews
  13. Universities and Colleges
Badges
  1. open access