Growing up with a dog makes you less likely to suffer from anxiety, study finds
They're called man's best friend for a reason.
Children who have a dog to cuddle up with at night, talk to and play with by day are less likely to suffer from anxiety, a new study published in journal Preventing Chronic Disease suggests.
Researchers from Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, New York, set out to find out if having a four-legged friend in the house could do more for your kids than just be a furry playmate. To do so, the researchers asked parents of children aged four to 10 who came in for well-child visits to answer a questionnaire about health related topics, among them pets in the home, before the checkup.
The researchers formed two study groups based on the answers, one with children who had a pet dog at home and the other with kids who did not have pups."We studied children with dogs because that was the most common pet and allowed us to collect a large sample of children," research scientist and study author, Dr. Anne Gadomski, explains to CBS News.
The study included 370 kids with dogs and 273 kids who didn't have one. Among the 58 percent of children with a dog, 12 percent tested positive on a screening test for anxiety, compared with 21 percent of children who did not have a pet dog.
"What we actually found was children from homes with pet dogs had lower anxiety scores than children in homes with no pet dog," says Gadomski.
And while she acknowledges that further studies are needed to determine cause and effect, Gadomski, who is a dog owner herself, said she finds it very interesting looking at pets and childhood mental health from a preventive health angle.
"Childhood anxiety is a huge mental health problem in the U.S. and anything we can do to mitigate anxiety or prevent its development would have a huge impact on the mental health system in the United States."
As to why having a dog is beneficial to children's health, Gadomski explains: "Interacting with a friendly dog also reduces cortisol levels, most likely through oxytocin release, which lessens physiologic responses to stress. These hormonal effects may underlie the observed emotional and behavioural benefits of animal-assisted therapy and pet dogs.”
Basically, having a pup is like having your very own best friend and therapist, all rolled up in one furry package.