Many students look forward to university life after secondary school. It is a brand new stage that promises independence and plans for the future.
But the reality persists that university students experience high levels of stress. Having to balance intense schoolwork alongside personal responsibilities can be a heavy load.
Psychological Distress in College Students
The 2019 National College Health Assessment survey showed the sobering reality. They surveyed 55,000 post-secondary students across Canada. A majority (59.5%) found their academics traumatic or too challenging to handle. Sixty-three percent also reported feeling hopeless at some point within the past 12 months.
Studies are still in contention on whether university causes this stress. Some suggest that students are just more likely to report their symptoms.
Still, universities are a hotbed for stress and mental health problems. Staying in a high-pressure environment can have many detrimental effects on one’s health.
Prolonged exposure to stress can cause many adverse effects. Some examples are headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and a weakened immune system. It can also worsen major psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Many universities offer counseling services, but only a few make use of them. In the same NCHA survey, only 20% of the 55,000 students reported receiving said counseling.
Health Benefits of Therapy Dogs
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) originated in ancient times, albeit it was more informal then.
The ancient Greeks used horses to cheer up the ill. In 9th-century Belgium, animals and humans used each other’s companionship for recovery. Florence Nightingale also believed in pets’ capabilities to help the sick recover.
It wasn’t until the 1960s when AAT became a subject for academic study. Dr. Boris Levinson brought his dog, Jingles, to work at Yeshiva University.
He soon observed that Jingles’ presence helped him communicate with formerly unreachable patients. He soon shared his account by publishing Pet-Oriented Child Psychotherapy in 1969.
Reported rates of stress and anxiety remain high among students. Due to this concern, many universities have decided to take action. Carleton University is one of them, with their Carleton Therapy Dog Program.
Many researchers have conducted studies on how animals can help lift people’s moods. A 2019 study by Washington State University supported this. Petting animals for 10 minutes helped reduce cortisol levels in university students.
Surveys also show that many students benefit from spending time with their pets. It helps them stay active and feel less lonely in tough times.
The Bottom Line
We have always called dogs “man’s best friend” because there is some truth to it. The breed doesn’t matter–it could be a Dalmatian, golden retriever, or pug. A therapy dog is there to make you feel better.
For those concerned with having enough space for a dog, find out more about a Chihuahua in this guide.
High-stress environments can affect the best of us. Some days, spending some time with a therapy dog is what we need to keep going.
One day, good mental healthcare and education will be commonplace. We can bet our furry friends will be right beside us to welcome it.