Dogs help students destress

December 09, 2011

Newburgh, NY -

Research has proven that watching, petting or talking to an animal can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce mental distress, and for college students, studies show that petting a friendly dog lowered anxiety levels. From left: Mount Saint Mary College students Alissa Niad of Yorktown Heights, NY, psychology; Marisse Merwin of Pittsfield, MA., nursing; Courtney Payoczkowski of Paramus, NJ, physical therapy; and Miles Hurley of Monroe, CT, English, relax with Dixie, a golden retriever/lab mix, owned by George Barger (not pictured) of Piermont, NY. A group of dogs and owners from the Hudson Valley Humane Society Visiting Pet Program recently interacted with more than 300 Mount students, faculty and staff at the campus in Newburgh, NY, helping them relax and take a break together before final exams. An extensive Australian study reported that pet owners have fewer risk factors for heart disease; overall, pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure and lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners. Epidemiologist Judith Siegel of the University of California, Los Angeles, who explored the role of pets in regard to stressful life events, found that pet owners made fewer visits to the doctor than people without animal companions and that pets were “stress buffers” for those experiencing illness or the death of a loved one.