All students need to do to de-stress and unwind is ten minutes of interaction with cats or dogs, say scientists at Washington State University (WSU). The WSU study published in AERA Open (June) found that the act of petting a cat/dog produced a significant reduction in students’ cortisol, a hormone linked with stress and anxiety. “Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact. In our study, students who interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone,” says Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU’s department of human development.
The study involved 249 college students randomly divided into four groups. The first group received hands-on interaction in small groups with cats and dogs for ten minutes. To compare effects of different human exposures to animals, the second group observed other people petting animals while they waited in line for their turn. The third group watched a slideshow of the animals, while the fourth group was “waitlisted”. The researchers found that the first group showed the most reduction in cortisol levels.