It’s finals week and that means it’s crunch time. That final stretch of the semester usually comes with a lot of studying which is usually followed by a lot of stress.
If the stress becomes too unbearable, petting the stress away with cats or dogs can have positive stress reduction benefits, according to new recent research.
A study commissioned by Washington State University found that as little as 10 minutes of comfort from an animal can have a “significant impact” on your stress levels. The research, published in AERA Open, is considered the first of its kinds, according to researchers.
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“Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development, in a press release.
Almost 250 college students were involved in the study. The participants were divided into four different groups and each was assigned different roles with the animals. The first group was allowed to have hands-on interaction with cats and dogs for about 10 minutes, where they were allowed to pet or play with them.
The second group observed others who were able to pet with the animals as they waited for their time, and the third group was forced to watch a slideshow of the animals used in the study. The fourth group was made to wait, which meant handing over their phones for 10 minutes. They were told that they would be able to interact with the animals.
The study examined each participants cortisol level, which is the human body’s main stress hormone, according to WebMD. Researchers took saliva samples and found students who had direct interaction with the animals had “significantly less cortisol in their saliva” after the interaction.
“We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals and that it helps them experience more positive emotions,” Pendry said. “What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way. And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”