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If You’ve Been Reading Along, You Already Know This

— If you’ve been following the Collegiate Way, where we long ago explained how college cats could bring about world peace and universal enlightenment, you already know this:

College students find comfort in their pets during hard times

The Ohio State University · Press release: 22 December 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study suggests that college students may handle stressful situations better if they have a pet.

Research has already shown that pets can improve the quality of life for people who are aging or those who are chronically ill. But researchers at Ohio State University recently found that many college students may also benefit from owning a cat or a dog.

A survey of students at a large university and other adults in the area found that nearly a quarter of college students surveyed believed their pets helped them get through difficult times in life. Students who chose to live with at least one dog, one cat, or a combination of the two were less likely to report feeling lonely and depressed; something they directly attributed to their beloved pet.

These findings highlight how even younger, healthier young adults can benefit from living with our four-legged friends, said Sara Staats, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio State’s Newark Campus.

“We might not think of college students as being lonely, but a lot of freshman and sophomores are in an early transition from living at home to living in dorms or off-campus. College is a very stressful environment for them and sometimes they can feel isolated or overwhelmed with the change,” she said. […]

Many people in their late twenties to mid-forties have established circles of friends. Adults usually live in areas with friends, colleagues, and family nearby, making their lives more stable than those beginning to build their lives. Many more adults are married or have started raising a family, and have years of experience learning how to cope with difficult situations.

Many first and second-year students, however, are in the beginning stages of building a new network of friends. College students living far from home may find it harder to deal with difficult situations because they are thrown into a new environment and expected to find their way, often for the first time in their lives.

As a result, many students may find themselves feeling isolated and withdrawn from their environment.

“Many students said that their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives. The pets are not a substitute for human social interaction and support, but they do provide important interaction for these kids who might otherwise feel isolated from their current environment,” Staats said.

“I wouldn’t advise everyone to go out and buy a puppy. But I think this research clearly shows that many students can benefit both psychologically and socially from living with an animal companion.”

Staats conducted the study with undergraduate psychology students Heidi Wallace and Tara Anderson.

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