EXPLORING THE EFFECTS OF COMPANION ANIMAL OWNERSHIP ON THE PERCEIVED STRESS OF COLLEGE STUDENTS
AuthorMCKARNS, SYDNEY DIANE
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe mental health of college students is of increasing importance because many students are experiencing significant levels of stress which can lead to further health problems such as high blood pressure, fatigue, and depression. Studies have shown that human-animal interaction (HAI) is effective in lowering stress levels, leading to improved overall health both mentally and physically. The aim of this study was to explore whether owning a companion animal, which has shown to reduce stress levels and increase overall health and well-being, would help mitigate the high stress levels that students are experiencing today. For the purposes of this study, companion animal ownership is defined as living with a companion animal five or more days a week. It was hypothesized that students who owned companion animals would have lower perceived stress scores than students who did not own a companion animal. A survey-type study was conducted on a sample of 241 undergraduate students from the University of Arizona. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10), along with additional survey questions were used to measure the perceived stress levels of survey participants. Respondents self-reported very high levels of perceived stress, in general, in addition to very high stress levels during academic activities. Approximately 76% of respondents also reported feeling some increase in stress due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. There was no difference in perceived stress scores between companion animal owners and non-companion animal owners overall. This result is likely due to the perceived stress scores being extremely high. However, when comparing dog-only owners’ PSS scores with the remaining companion animal (cats, avian, equid, small mammal, reptile/amphibian, fish, exotic, rabbit) owners' scores, there was a significant difference (p=.004) with dog owners having lower PSS scores, suggesting that dog interaction may be more effective in facilitating the benefits of HAI. This study suggests that undergraduate students are experiencing extreme levels of perceived stress, making the possible benefits of owning a companion animal ineffective.
Degree ProgramVeterinary Science