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Not only are they super cute and make us smile on a daily basis, scientists from Washington State University have now proved that cuddling and petting our favourite furry friends for just ten minutes is an effective way to reduce stress levels.
In findings published in AERA Open - an open access journal published by the American Educational Research Association - last month, people are now starting to sit up and pay attention to the results, which were derived from a study in which researchers looked at how 249 college students interacted with cats and dogs in different ways.
"Just ten minutes can have a significant impact," said Patricia Pendry, an associate professor in WSU's Departments of Human Development in a statement.
"Students in our study that interacted with cats and dogs had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone."
Inspired by 'Pet Your Stress Away' programmes, which are available in some US colleges where students can stoke animals to alleviate their anxiety, the team split the college students into four random groups.
The first group had 10 minutes of hands-on interaction with dogs and cats while the second sat and observed others petting the animals.
The third group watched a slideshow of the same animals while the fourth group was "waitlisted and told they would be allowed to see the animals after waiting for 10 minutes.
This is the first study that has demonstrated reductions in students' cortisol levels during a real-life intervention, and results were determined by salivary samples that were collected from each participant starting from the moment they woke up in the morning.
Scientists found significantly less cortisol in the saliva of students who had direct interaction with the pets.
"We already knew that students enjoy interacting with animals and that is helps them experience more positive emotions," said Dr Pendry.
"What we wanted to learn was whether this exposure would help students reduce their stress in a less subjective way."
So basically what they're telling us is that we should just go round stroking all the pets all the time which is totally fine with us.
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