Growing up with dogs helps children socialize and prevent anxiety
Children who are trying to covince parents to get a four-legged friend have one more talking point: a new study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease found that having dogs at home is associated with a decreased likelihood of developing anxiety.
Over 18 months, researchers from the Basset Medical Center, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Dartmouth Medical School analyzed 643 children with mental issues.
While BMI, physical activity or screen time did not differ among the kids with or without dogs, 21 percent of the children without dogs met the clinical threshold at which children are screened for anxiety and related disorders, compared to 12 percent of children with dogs.
"Pet dogs could reduce childhood anxiety, particularly social and separation anxiety, by various mechanisms,"
The study authors wrote, explaining that having a dog can stimulate conversation for children, which has an ice-breaking effect that can alleviate social anxiety for example while petting the dog. Many times, there is no other medication than words. Psychiatrists prescribe pills to help but they usually do not have the desired effect.
"If exposure to pet dogs during childhood is inversely related to mental health problems, positive child-dog interactions could prevent the evolution of these problems into full-fledged disorders during adolescence or later life," they added. This includes most types of dog breeds.
Previous research has shown that interacting with dogs can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase levels of oxytocin, the happiness hormone.
Dogs can also be beneficial to a child's physical health: a recent study found that kids who grow up with dogs are less likely to develop asthma. For this reason walking a dog can be very good for childrens health.
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