The Effects of Companion Animals and the Benefit which Ensues: Animals Helping Human Happiness
Date of Award
Restricted Access Thesis
College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences
Erin Mueller, PhD
Using companion animals as a tool in healthcare and therapy is underutilized despite the empirical and anecdotal evidence of positive emotional and physical support. Care involving animal companionship is usually not initially prescribed; however, it has been shown to influence people of specific demographics (e.g. the elderly, children with learning disabilities, terminally ill patients) in a positive manner. In this study, I analyzed the effects of animals on a general population of undergraduate student volunteers. The experimental group completed a survey about their stress and happiness levels following a neutral narrative, and then a stressful scenario was read. As the participants dwelled on their stress, an animal was introduced to the participants; they interacted with the dog and then completed out the post-test survey. A comparison group experienced the same session only without the introduction of the animal. The data were analyzed regarding the impact of the animal on perceived stress and well-being and to assess whether having the animal there for support would alleviate some of the anxiety the stress caused and make the participants happier. There was a significant difference between the experimental group (M = 15.19, SD =2.00) and the comparison group (M =9.42, SD = 3.34) on follow-up measures of stress (p < .01). The animal seemed to relieve stress in the experimental group while the control group was unchanged.