Why Family Pets Are Good for Your Health, According to Science

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Even if you’re not an animal lover, a new study published from Washington State University may have you changing your mind about adding a fur baby to the family. The study, which was published in AERA Open, an open-access journal, found that spending a small amount of time petting a dog or cat can help with stress reduction.

The university studied the common “Pet Your Stress Away” programs that many institutions are using, in which students can spend time with cats or dogs to alleviate stress. While the research specifically studied students, the results are much more far-reaching.

photo: Paul Hanoaka via Unsplash

Researchers studied 249 students split into four groups who were able to interact directly with animals, watch others interact, view a slide show or wait their turn. The results showed that the students who interacted directly with the pets showed much less cortisol in their saliva measurement (the tool used to determine cortisol levels) after the interaction.

The results were consistent for students with varying high and low levels of cortisol going into the study––proof that some time with your fuzzy friends is good for your health.

Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development states, “What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way. And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”

Student or parent, a little time with your furry friend can only help when it comes to ditching the stress.

––Karly Wood

 

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