A dog is a child’s best friend reducing anxiety levels according to new research stemming from the Bassett Medical Center, New York.
Children’s anxiety may be triggered by a multitude of factors. Children’s anxiety may also leave them open to a wide array of health conditions as they grow up and transition into teenhood and adulthood. What better way to do away with anxiety than enjoying the comforting presence of the faithful, loyal, fluffy canine friend?
The research team of the Bassett Medical Center conducted a study involving 643 children aged four to ten. Of them, 58 percent shared their home with a dog. After thorough examination and assessing the children’s anxiety levels, the researchers concluded that a dog is a child’s best friend reducing anxiety levels considerably.
21 percent of the children participating in the study and who did not have a dog at home tested positive for elevated anxiety levels. Of the children who did enjoy the company of their canine friends, only 12 percent tested positive for anxiety.
According to the researchers, the significant drop in anxiety levels among children who own a dog is due to a drop in cortisol levels. As they play with their furry friends and enjoy their company throughout the day, more oxytocin is released. Oxytocin reduces the psychological response to elevated stress due to any reason.
The same process underpins animal-assisted therapy which has proven highly beneficial for the behavior and emotions of children and adults alike. With a dog around, children learn attachement far easier, which in turn reduces anxiety, improves mental health and reduces the risk of developmental disorders.
Of course, in the end it’s a matter of personal choice if a family wishes to bring a dog in or not. However, previous research has also shown that owning a dog also reduces the risk of obesity among children. Learning responsibility and taking the furry friend for walks, to play or for a much deserved run involves physical activity which reduces the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
As for how owning a dog affects mental health, previous studies have shown that the furry friends are the masters of following emotional cues picked up from their human friends. A bad day will translate in your dog cuddling up and doing everything in its power to put a smile back on your face. Emotional development of children was found to rely heavily on perceiving a dog as a comfort provider, a self-esteem booster and a trusty confidant.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia
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