Pet Your Stress Away: Petting pets can alleviate stress among students

Scientists at Washington State University have a launched a programme for students to alleviate their stress levels and to cope with pressures of student life. By means of “Pet Your Stress Away” program, students can interact with dogs or cats.

The program is especially designed to improve students’ mood and as cited by experts this initiative also has the ability to get under the skin and has stress-relieving physiological benefits.

“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” according to Patricia Pendry. She is an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development. “Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.”

For the study, researchers divided 249 students into random groups. The first group received hands-on interaction in small groups with pets for a total of ten minutes. In this time span, they could pet, play and in general hang out with the animals they wanted.

The experiment compared results that observed reduced cortisol levels among students occurring during real time intervention than in a laboratory setting.

In order to compare effects of exposure to different animals, the second group petted animals while waiting for their turn. The third group watched a slideshow instead during the intervention, and finally the fourth group was put on a ‘waitlist’.

Furthermore, several samples of salivary cortisol were collected from every participant. These were collected in the morning when they woke up. The results concluded that students who interacted directly with pets had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva. It was also considered that these participants may originally have either very high or low levels.

As per a statement by Pendry, she stated that it was already clear that students enjoy interacting with animals and it helped them develop positive emotions. “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,” she adds.

The research extends its study to analyzing the impact of a four-week-long animal assisted prevention program. According to reports, the preliminary results are very positive.