Time with furry friends in therapy dog sessions can help students fight stress

Stressed out students could benefit from spending time with dogs according to new research. ― AFP pic
Stressed out students could benefit from spending time with dogs according to new research. ― AFP pic

TORONTO, March 14 ― New Canadian research has found that therapy dog sessions on university campuses could help reduce stress and boost students’ well-being.

Carried out by researchers from the University of British Columbia, the study looked at 246 students who attended a drop-in therapy dog session at their university campus, where they were free to pet and cuddle seven to 12 dogs during the sessions.

The students were asked to fill out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later.

The researchers found that students who spent time at a therapy dog session reported significant reductions in their level of stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately after spending time with the dogs, compared to a control group who did not spend time at a therapy dog session.

Although previous research has suggested that female students could benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found in the new study that both genders benefitted equally from spending time with ‘man’s best friend.’

The results did show that some of these positive feelings were short-lived, with the team finding that happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, however the stress-busting effects did.

“The results were remarkable,” said study co-author Stanley Coren, “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.”

The team notes that since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session don’t last long, universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress to help students cope in such times.

“These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods,” said Frances Chen, the study’s senior author, “Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful.”

Previous research has also shown that dogs can also offer support to young children and help reduce their levels of stress and anxiety.

The findings can be found published online in the journal Stress and Health. ― AFP-Relaxnews

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