PHOENIX- College is stressful. We all know it.
Especially when your plate is full of lengthy homework assignments, tedious exams that need at least five hours of study time each, a part-time (but basically full-time) job, and everything else on top of that.
Researchers at Washington State University wanted to examine stress levels in college students and see how they could help. They found one, technically two, ways to relieve some stress.
Dogs and cats.
Nearly 1,000 universities across the nation have worked to promote stress relief for students by using animal visitation programs (AVPs). AVPs allow students to engage in hands-on playtime with animals for a certain period of time.
And students love it.
The study found that these fun, stress-free programs result in higher ratings in momentary positive emotions, a reduction in stress-related negative emotions, lower perceived stress and improvements in mood.
“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” Patricia Pendry, associate professor at Washington State University, said in a press release. “Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.
The study looked at 249 college students who were split into four different groups.
- Students in the first group played with the dogs and cats 10 minutes
- Students in the second group observed people playing with pets
- Students in the third group were just shown a slideshow of pets
- Students in the fourth group were told they would play with pets but waited 10 minutes with no phone, reading material, etc.
The four groups were created to compare the effects that the exposure (or lack of) to animals had on the students. The researchers analyzed several salivary cortisol samples from each student throughout the day and sure enough, their hypothesis was correct.
The students who interacted with the pets showed less cortisol in their saliva after their “play time”.
“We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals and that it helps them experience more positive emotions,” Pendry said in a release. “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 hormone may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.
Moral of the story: pet your dog, cat, bunny, pig, whatever pet you have and love. It’ll take some stress away.