TEEN HEALTH Published November25, 2015 By Milafel Hope Dacanay

Pets Help Reduce Childhood Anxiety

(Photo : Evening Standard | Hulton Archive)

More studies have revealed why it's great to keep pets especially when the children are still young. In the latest research, children who are surrounded by pets are less likely to develop anxiety and other mental health issues.

The research conducted by Dartmouth Medical School, Health Sciences Center of University of Oklahoma, and Basset Medical Center looked into the physical and mental health of more than 640 children who lived in New York and were enrolled in a primary care setting.

The study, which ran for more than a year, involved parents answering a questionnaire that helped the researchers get a better idea of the children's physical and mental state during the yearly screening. Some of the data obtained are body mass index (BMI), which is a good indicator of obesity, and signs of depression and anxiety. The researchers also asked about pet companionship.

Since the research can be affected by the parents' own mental health, especially since they're the ones who answered the questionnaire, they also underwent screening.

Based on the results, the team discovered that at least 20% of the children with no pets were meeting the criteria for anxiety and depressive issues. However, this is several points higher than the 12% among kids with pet dogs. The difference was also significant even if other factors that could affect mental health like economic status of the family are considered.

The researchers believe that pet dogs helped alleviate anxiety as parents and children can bond over their love for their pet. Further, kids are encouraged to share their feelings and other anxiety issues with their parents while bonding with their pet.

Other previous studies have shown that pet companionship can reduce feelings of loneliness and boost mood. A recent research also points out how childhood exposure to pets can decrease the possibility of developing asthma later.

The researchers believe that by reducing anxiety issues while the kids are young, the likelihood of them having mental health problems when they reach teenage years will also decrease.

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