New study reveals that, among other threatens, dogs protect kids against Anxiety. Researchers have studied the likeliness of anxiety occurrence in 643 children six to seven years old. Among them, 58 percent had a dog friend in their house.
The study revealed that only 12 percent of children who had a dog were likely to develop anxiety, compared to 21 percent for the children without a dog.
The study, which was a joint effort of a team of researchers from the Dartmouth Medical School, from the University of Oklahoma and the Basset Medical Center, has been published in Preventing Chronic Disease journal of the National Center for Prevention against Chronic Disease and Promotion of Health.
Before now, other studies associated the presence of a dog in a child’s life with a lower risk of developing allergies, especially for babies exposed to dogs from an early age. The current study explores the hypothesis that dogs are associated positively with a healthy weight and good mental health among children.
The study clearly indicates that there is a positive correlation between having a dog friend and a lower risk of anxiety for children. One of the explanations is that when interacting with dogs, children’s brain release oxytocin, which in turn reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
Using an electronic tablet, the subjects of the clinical study completed a health risk Web-based scanner, named the DartScreen. The screening probed into BMI (body mass index), physical activity, mental health and inquiries related to pets. Children’s parents were also interrogated regarding their kids’ type of anxiety.
The study found that children with dogs in their life were less anxious. Scientists explain that having a pet can be a major ice-breaker for conversation, which alleviates social anxiety. It is easier for kids with dogs to make friends than it is for those without a pet. They also learn attachment easier, which improves mental health, reduces anxiety and diminishes risks of developmental disorders.
The test has only been done for kids with dogs, since there was a larger history of research in this field showing the strong bonds between children and their dog friends. Authors of the study claim this doesn’t mean that a similar effect couldn’t be observed for children with cats or other pets.
Further research is always necessary for more relevant results. However, the findings of this study are important mainly for developing animal-assisted therapies.
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