PULLMAN, Wash. — A new Washington State University study has found that petting animals can decrease human stress levels, according to WCNC.
249 college students were separated into four groups for the study.
“Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development.
Pendry and a WSU graduate student, Jaymie Vandagriff, published the study in an open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association.
“Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone,” Pendry said.
This study was the first to show a reduction in cortisol levels in a real-life setting rath than a laboratory setting, according to Pendry.
For the study, the first group could play with and pet cats and dogs for 10 minutes.
The second group waited in line for their turn and watched other people pet the animals.
The third group watched a slideshow of animals available to pet.
The fourth group waited for their turn for 10 minutes with no interruptions and were told they would get to see the animals soon.
When the participants woke up, they submitted several saliva samples to measure cortisol.
Researchers found that the students who got to interact with the animals had lower cortisol levels following the interaction.
“What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way,” Pendry said. “And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, have significant benefits for physical and mental health.”
Pendry says a follow-up study is planned.