Dogs help make humans less anxious, says science, confirming what we already knew in our hearts
Cuddling your dog is always the best feeling. When they lick your face, it’s like all your stresses are melting away. Well, it turns out your anxiety actually is lessened by your wet-nosed pup, according to recent research. (We’re not terribly surprised, because let’s be real: Dogs are actually the best.)
A study published yesterday in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease studied 643 kids aged six to seven. The children were enrolled in a pediatric primary care clinic in New York. The researchers asked the parents of these kids to fill out a health survey about their kids before their annual visit. The survey asked questions ranging from the time their kids spent looking at screens to their body mass index, but what researchers found had to do with pets: Dogs, to be specific.
Approximately 58 percent of the children had a dog in their home (again, because dogs are awesome). And only 12 percent of the kids with dogs had the potential for childhood anxiety, compared with 21 percent of the kids who don’t have dogs. Although the researchers noted that this may just be an example of a correlation without a definite causation, the findings held up even after testing them with several different variables, such as income level of the children’s family.
The researchers also noted that we can view these findings one of two ways, currently: Either less anxious kids tend to have dogs, or dogs make kids less anxious (which anyone with a dog can attest to). After all, taking Spot on a walk can make for good ice-breakers, which can help with social anxiety.
“Significant differences between groups were found for the separation anxiety component (‘My child is afraid to be alone in the house’) and social anxiety component (‘My child is shy’) favoring pet ownership,” the researchers wrote in the study. “. . . Families with pets may be more stable and may be more affluent, but the researchers suggest there’s more to it than that. A pet dog can stimulate conversation, an ice-breaking effect that can alleviate social anxiety via a social catalyst effect.”
The bond between man and dog can be even stronger for kids, which could possibly alleviate anxiety. “Sometimes their first word is the name of their pet,” Dr. Anne Gadomski, who led the study’s team, told NBC News. “There is a very strong bond between children and their pets.”
And, of course, cuddling or playing with your dog can release oxytocin and lower stress hormones, the researchers noted. But if you’re a cat person, don’t feel too left out; the researchers specifically looked at dogs due to the volume of research surrounding them. “It doesn’t mean that cats can’t do the same thing,” Gadomski told NBC News.
But us dog lovers will be over here cuddling our pups more than ever. Is there anything dogs do that *isn’t* amazing?
(Images via Shutterstock.)