Pet therapy helps reduce anxiety for college students

Pet therapy helps reduce anxiety for college students

There are times when we feel stress with so many activities going on in our lives at school, work, and home.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 million Americans between the ages of 18 and older are affected with anxiety.

An anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. Symptoms include muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

A recent study recently took a look at the stress and anxiety levels of college students, finding that pet therapy can help to reduce these symptoms.

Researchers found that college students are mostly affected with stress and anxiety due to the amount of assignments and projects, studying for final exams, being involved in extracurricular activities, and feeling homesick. College students also feel the pressure to receive a high GPA and staying focused and attending classes.

The study, led by Dr. Leslie Stewart from Idaho State University who collaborated with researchers at Georgia State University and Savannah College of Art and Design, was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.

Researchers looked at 55 students who participated in a pet therapy session.

During the study, 84 percent of the participants interacted with a therapy dog named Sophie by allowing to pet, hug, brush, feed and play fetch. As a result, the researchers found a 60 percent decrease of anxiety, stress and even loneliness among college students due to attending a two-hour pet therapy session.

“College counseling centers are becoming more and more reflective of community mental health agencies,” said Dr. Franco Dispenza from Georgia State University, in a statement.

Dispenza also said in the news release that dogs have become more domesticated and have the ability to read cues between themselves and humans.

“A dog can tell when a human is sad,” Dispenza said. “To become a registered therapy dog, the animal and handler must complete a series of evaluations and courses, which involve their grooming, temperament, previous training, and relationship with their handler.”

Dawn Kunz, a nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., oversees the pet therapy program at the hospital. She says pets provide healing in ways that medicine can’t. From college students to patients in a hospital, Kunz see benefits of pets for all.

“I think therapy dogs help brighten everyone’s day, even if it is just for a moment in time, you feel the stress decrease,” she says.

Kunz says the handlers and dogs help relieve stress and discomfort of patients in several ways.

“I have seen the handlers talk about the pet at home or a pet the patient may have had a while ago,” she says. “All of the dogs will position themselves to maximize petting which is good for them and the patient. It is just the comforting nature of the animal and that moment in time when the patient may feel less ill, pain, lonely, etc.”

Related Posts



  1. Lynn Hutley

    With my life largely contained to the campus, I remember being so excited to see a dog or a small child during college.

  2. We have this on Wednesdays at the University of Minnesota – it is great! This theory is on point for reducing anxiety for college students, I think.

  3. Poor college students, having to enter the reality of the world.
    Why do these shelters not cater to the veterans coming home with shellshock?

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.