PURPOSE: Most patients with schizophrenia exhibit low willingness to return to society because of negative social experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic led to severe social isolation for schizophrenia patients. However, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) can improve individuals' empathy, social functions, and quality of life. The study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of AAT in improving social interactions and quality of life in patients with chronic schizophrenia during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: An experimental study was conducted, with six institutions for psychiatric rehabilitation in Taiwan as the case institutions. Patients in these institutions were randomly allocated to the experimental group, which received 60 minutes of AAT once a week for 12 weeks, or the control group, which engaged in routine discussion groups and watched short films about animals. Comparisons between the two groups were made before and after the intervention on social function, social adaptive function, and quality of life. Data were collected before the intervention (T1), immediately after the intervention (T2), and 3 months after the intervention (T3). RESULTS: Comparison between groups showed that social functioning was significantly higher in the experimental group than in the control group at T2. However, there was no sign of improvement in social adaptive functions of the experimental group. The experimental group exhibited significantly higher quality of life than the control group at T2 and T3. CONCLUSIONS: There was an impact of COVID-19 on the studied effects. AAT improved social functioning and quality of life in patients with chronic schizophrenia. The effect on quality of life lasted only up to 3 months after the intervention. AAT should be promoted for use as a community-based rehabilitation tool in patients with chronic schizophrenia. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, ChiCTR2200061715. https://www.chictr.org.cn.
|Publication Title||Asian Nurs Res (Korean Soc Nurs Sci)|
|Author Address||National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Electronic address: email@example.com.National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.|
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