Scientists have proved that petting cats and dogs forjust ten minutes is an effective way to reducestress levels.
Scientists showed that the general well-being ofstudents improves quickly, with even those who arehighly stressed showing 'significant' reduction incortisol levels - a chemical produced by our bodies intimes of stress.
Many universities have adopted 'Pet Your Stress Away' programs where students can interactwith cats or dogs and it appears to be paying dividends now.
The research, conducted by Washington State University, shows that pets improve students'moods and their presence has stress-relieving physiological benefits.
'Just 10 minutes can have a significant impact,' said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor inWSU's Department of Human Development.
'Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction incortisol, a major stress hormone.'
This is the first study that has demonstrated reductions in students' cortisol levels during areal-life intervention.
The team chose 249 college students and put them into four random groups and compared theeffects of different exposures to animals.
The first group were provided 10 minutes of hands-on interaction with dogs and cats.
The second group waited in line while observing others petting the animals.
The third group watched a slideshow of the same animals, while the fourth group was'waitlisted.'
Salivary cortisol samples were collected from each participant starting from the moment theywoke up in the morning.
There were significantly less cortisol in the saliva of students who had direct interaction withthe pets.
'We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals, and that it helps themexperience more positive emotions,' Dr Pendry said.
'What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stressin a less subjective way.
'And it did, which is exciting because the reduction of stress hormones may, over time, havesignificant benefits for physical and mental health.'
The findings were published in the journal American Educational Research Association.