Animal lovers have long suspected that a little canine quality time was good for the soul, and now science has confirmed it – for students in particular.
The results of a new study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia concluded that the college students who spent time at drop-in dog therapy sessions experienced a boost in feelings of wellness and a reduction in overall stress. The study, as reported by Science Daily, indicates that playing with pups is not only popular with the students, it’s also beneficial to their health. This finding was seen across gender.
“Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students,” Emma Ward-Griffin, the study’s lead author and UBC Department of Psychology research assistant, told Science Daily. “Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the well-being of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity.”
The study, which published on March 12 in the journal Stress and Health, involved 246 students who were surveyed before and after they dropped by therapy dog sessions. The young participants were given free access to pet, cuddle with and talk to seven to 12 therapy dogs. Additionally, they filled out questionnaires right before and right after hanging with the dogs, as well as 10 hours later.
According to researchers, these young adults reported a notable increase in happiness, a significant reduction in stress and a surge of energy right after their sessions with the pups. Although the reported feelings of happiness and satisfaction weren’t long-lasting, researchers say other effects have clear, positive advantages.
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“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,” Assistant Professor of Psychology at UBC and the study’s senior author, Frances Chen told Science Daily. “Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful.”