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Health & Balance

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Pets Comfort College Students

College Students Get Companionship, Activity, Stress Relief From Their Pets
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 26, 2008 -- Pets may be a source of stress relief, as well as companionship, for college students, a new study shows.

The study included 241 students, mainly freshmen, at a commuter college in the Midwest. About 100 adults age 30 and older in the same area, but not affiliated with the college, also took part.

Participants completed a survey which included questions about pets. The group included 98 dog owners, 42 cat owners, 97 people with both cats and dogs, and 74 people with other pets.

When asked why they had pets, companionship was the most common reason for people of all ages; those people said they would be lonely without their pet.

The second most common reason was that their pet helps keep them active. And the third most common reason was that their pet helps them "get through hard times."

College students were more likely than the older participants to say their pet helps them get through hard times. That may be because college freshmen are in a transition period and haven't yet built their social network and resources for coping, note the researchers, who included Sara Staats, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State University.

"College is a very stressful environment for them and sometimes they can feel isolated or overwhelmed with the change," Staats states in a news release. "Many feel their pets will help them get through these difficult and stressful situations, and many more say that without their pet, they would feel lonely."

Writing in a recent edition of Society and Animals, Staats and colleagues conclude that, although the students in their study may not represent all college students, "pets provide important benefits to young persons as well as the better-known benefits provided to the lonely, elderly, or ill."

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