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Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students

Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students

A new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that some one-on-one time with a therapy dog can do the trick of boosting student wellness.

Some believe college students are more stressed than ever before. As such, academic centers are taking proactive strategies to provide healthy avenues for students.

“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,” said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study’s lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology.

“Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity.”

In the study, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle, and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later.

The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

The study appears in Stress and Health.

“The results were remarkable,” said Dr. Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC.

“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.”

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study.

Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

“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 Dr. Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC.

“Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful.”

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC’s Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.

Source: University of British Columbia

Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Therapy Dogs May Ease Stress of College Students. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/03/13/therapy-dogs-may-ease-stress-of-college-students/133686.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Mar 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Mar 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.