Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

College Students Find Comfort In Their Pets During Hard Times

Date:
December 28, 2008
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
A new study suggests that college students may handle stressful situations better if they have a pet. Research has already shown that pets can improve the quality of life for people who are aging or those who are chronically ill.But researchers have recently found that many college students may also benefit from owning a cat or a dog.

Students who chose to live with at least one dog, one cat, or a combination of the two were less likely to report feeling lonely and depressed; something they directly attributed to their beloved pet.
Credit: iStockphoto/Sean Locke

A new study suggests that college students may handle stressful situations better if they have a pet.

Related Articles


Research has already shown that pets can improve the quality of life for people who are aging or those who are chronically ill. But researchers at Ohio State University recently found that many college students may also benefit from owning a cat or a dog.

A survey of students at a large university and other adults in the area found that nearly a quarter of college students surveyed believed their pets helped them get through difficult times in life. Students who chose to live with at least one dog, one cat, or a combination of the two were less likely to report feeling lonely and depressed; something they directly attributed to their beloved pet.

These findings highlight how even younger, healthier young adults can benefit from living with our four-legged friends, said Sara Staats, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State’s Newark Campus.

“We might not think of college students as being lonely, but a lot of freshman and sophomores are in an early transition from living at home to living in dorms or off-campus. College is a very stressful environment for them and sometimes they can feel isolated or overwhelmed with the change,” she said.

“We found that a lot of young adults are choosing to have an animal companion for important reasons. Many feel their pets will help get them through these difficult and stressful situations, and many more say that without their pet, they would feel lonely.”

The study was based on survey responses from nearly 350 college students at a Midwestern commuter campus and nearby community members. Only those people who currently or previously owned a cat, a dog, or a combination of the two were included in the present study. People who were 18 to 87 years of age were all surveyed to study the differences between adults and students.

Participants were asked to indicate their current level of health, the type of pet(s) owned, and whether they believed a pet affected their overall health. They were then asked to identify their top reasons for owning a pet in both multiple-choice and open-ended surveys. The results were recently published in the journal Society and Animals.

The results showed that most adults and college students chose to own a pet for similar reasons. Although the results were based on self-reports, many of those surveyed believed their pet contributed to their overall health in a number of ways.

Nearly a quarter of all college students and adults reported that their pet was useful in keeping them active. This answer was more common for those who owned dogs, but those who had feline friends also reported their cat helped keep them active.

Likewise, 18 percent of college students and 13 percent of adults said their pet was important to helping them cope during difficult times. This belief was far more likely among those who were single rather than married, but it was listed by both groups in both open-ended and multiple choice questions.

But the results showed that avoiding loneliness was the top reason given by both students and adults. Nearly identical percentages of married and single persons gave this response, but students and those over 50 years of age were far more likely to list this as their top reason.

While previous work has demonstrated that the elderly benefit from animal companionship, this study is the one of the first to suggest that animal companions help those younger than 30 years of age, Staats said.

“Most of the studies on pet ownership focus directly on those adults and older generations who have heart problems or special needs. But there hasn’t been much recognition of that fact that young, healthy college students also derive benefits from pet ownership such as hedge against loneliness and improved ability to cope,” she said.

While the reasons for keeping a pet may be similar among adults and college students, the lifestyles differences between the two may provide clues as to why students rely on their pets more often, Staats said.

Many people in their late twenties to mid-forties have established circles of friends. Adults usually live in areas with friends, colleagues, and family nearby, making their lives more stable than those beginning to build their lives. Many more adults are married or have started raising a family, and have years of experience learning how to cope with difficult situations.

Many first and second-year students, however, are in the beginning stages of building a new network of friends. College students living far from home may find it harder to deal with difficult situations because they are thrown into a new environment and expected to find their way, often for the first time in their lives.

As a result, many students may find themselves feeling isolated and withdrawn from their environment.

“Many students said that their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives. The pets are not a substitute for human social interaction and support, but they do provide important interaction for these kids who might otherwise feel isolated from their current environment,” Staats said.

“I wouldn’t advise everyone to go out and buy a puppy. But I think this research clearly shows that many students can benefit both psychologically and socially from living with an animal companion.”

Staats conducted the study with undergraduate psychology students Heidi Wallace and Tara Anderson.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "College Students Find Comfort In Their Pets During Hard Times." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081223091318.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2008, December 28). College Students Find Comfort In Their Pets During Hard Times. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081223091318.htm
Ohio State University. "College Students Find Comfort In Their Pets During Hard Times." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081223091318.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins