Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Spending just 10 minutes stroking cats or dogs can significantly reduce stress, scientists say

A study of 249 students found just ten minutes playing with pets had a significant effect on their stress levels

Spending just 10 minutes petting animals can significantly reduce stress levels. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Spending just 10 minutes petting animals can significantly reduce stress levels. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Spending just 10 minutes stroking cats or dogs can significantly reduce your stress levels, new research has found.

We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and that it helps them experience more positive emotions.

Professor Patricia Pendry

Scientists in the US have shared their latest findings, which show how owning a pet could have many health benefits over time, thanks to a reduction in the stress hormone.

Researchers from Washington State University studied 249 students as they interacted differently with animals. For the study, the students were broken up into groups, with the first able to pet, play and interact with cats and dogs for ten minutes.

The next group were asked to wait in line for their turn to pet the animals while watching the first group. They were asked to do so without their mobile phones or any other reading material. The third group were asked to watch a slideshow of animals, while a fourth group was waitlisted.

Researchers collected saliva samples from each participant at various times throughout the day, starting in the morning when they woke up. The team found that there were huge reductions in the stress hormone cortisol from those who spent just 10 minutes with the animals.

“Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development.

The study, published in the journal AERA Open, is the first to demonstrate reductions in students’ cortisol levels during a real-life intervention rather than in a laboratory setting.

“We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and that it helps them experience more positive emotions,” Professor Pendry said. “What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way, which it did.”

She added: “This is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”

Updated: July 21, 2019 11:26 AM

SHARE

SHARE