There are many health benefits of owning a pet. They help lower blood pressure, for example, and couples with pets fight less. Now, brand new research tells us that animals can offer those same health benefits to college students who bring their pets to school with them. This new study was conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, who surveyed nearly 400 pet-owning students. The study found that students who lived with a pet were less likely to report feeling lonely or depressed. They also felt less stressed whenever homework piled up, or exams were looming.
Sara Staats is one of the psychology professors who led the study. She says pets fulfill a significant need for support and companionship during a major transition in a person’s life. While pets are no substitute for human interaction, Staats says they can provide enough companionship to keep students from feeling isolated in a new college environment. What’s more, students starting college these days were likely “latchkey kids” – meaning they probably grew up in homes where both parents worked full-time. So a dog or cat was often the only “family” waiting to greet them when they got home from school. So for them, bringing a pet to college is like taking along a family member, or familiar piece of home.
Of course, some psychologists worry that bringing a pet to school could add more stress to a student’s life – if they become overwhelmed trying to juggle the needs of an animal with school work. Also, a pet could make students feel more isolated – if spending time with their furry friend keeps them from socializing with other students. We should point out that the option of bringing a pet to college is a relatively new trend. So far, only a few dozen schools in North America allow it – with strict rules in place limiting pet noise, grooming and waste disposal. If having Fido on campus helps more students relax enough to earn an A-plus on their exams, we’re all for it.