Pet Dogs May Help Lower Anxiety Risk In Children

First Posted: Nov 26, 2015 12:03 AM EST

Having a pet dog at home may be linked to a decreased likelihood of developing childhood anxiety, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Basset Medical Center, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Dartmouth Medical School found that 12 percent of children with pet dogs tested positive for clinical anxiety, compared to 21 percent of children who did not have a pet dog.

"It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," study author Dr. Anne Gadomski, said via NBC News.

During the study, researchers examined 643 children in rural upstate New York in a pediatric primary care setting, according to The Huffington Post. The children were between the ages of 6 and 7 and 370 children had a pet dog while 273 children did not.

During the study, parents were required to complete a comprehensive health risk screener that addressed questions regarding physical and mental health of their children, as well as pet status.

Previous studies have shown how that interactions with a dog can help in releasing the bonding hormone oxytocin, as well as lowering of the stress hormone cortisol.

"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," researchers concluded.

The study is published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

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