A new study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology wanted to test the efficacy of pet therapy against psychological stress. There is a general belief that animals help people relax, but there was scarce scientific evidence in favor of this argument. Now, researchers looked for this evidence, but found this belief is rather anecdotal.
- There is a general belief that pet therapy relieves stress.
- An expansive study found no scientific evidence in favor of this claim.
- Having pets is not bad, but it doesn’t work the same for all kinds of stress.
Unfortunately for animal lovers, it seems that pet therapy renders small to medium improvements regarding psychological stress. In some cases, researchers even noticed that there are no improvements even if you spend time with pets, or the level of stress gets even higher.
This practice is based more on anecdotal knowledge than on any scientific evidence, after physicians noticed how the condition of mentally ill patients started improving after they underwent pet therapy. This type of treatment originates back to the 17th century, when mental patients were allowed to spend time with animals.
The scientific interest in this kind of therapy started in the 1960s, when Boris Levinson, child psychologist, reported that the presence of his dog Jingles around his patients helped them improve their condition.
Unfortunately, previous studies were not exactly reliable. For a research to bring relevant evidence, it needs a higher number of participants and a control group to test the results. Also, they tend to be rather observational, and don’t actually highlight important scientific facts.
This study is not meant to show that pet therapy is bad or ineffective, since having an animal cannot bring damage to anyone. However, if some people improve their stress levels when they are around a pet doesn’t mean this is a foolproof therapy for mental illnesses.
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