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Study: Children with pet dogs less likely to have anxiety


 

FROM PREVENTING CHRONIC DISEASE

References

A higher percentage of children without pet dogs (21%) than children with pet dogs (12%) tested positive for anxiety, in a cross-sectional study.

Researchers conducted the study at a general pediatric clinic in an academic medical center in Upstate New York. All parents of children enrolled in the study completed SCARED-5, a 5-item scale adapted from the Screen for Child Anxiety and Related Disorders, a tool validated in both psychiatric and primary care settings.

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Dr. Anne M. Gadomski, attending pediatrician and research scientist at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., and her colleagues analyzed the mean SCARED-5 score and the proportion of children meeting the SCARED-5 clinical score threshold of 3 or more, a point at which further assessment is indicated to diagnose anxiety. Their final analysis involved 370 children with a pet dog and 273 children with no pet dog. The children were aged 4-10 years. Ill or developmentally disabled children were excluded from the study.

In a univariate analysis, the mean SCARED-5 score was significantly lower among children with a pet dog, compared with children without a pet dog. The average score for children with dogs was 1.13 vs. 1.40 for children without dogs (P = .01). The predicted probability of a SCARE-5 score of 3 or higher was 0.20 for children without pet dogs, compared with 0.11 for children with pet dogs. Further demonstrating the link between children with pet dogs and a decreased likelihood of childhood anxiety was the study’s finding of a pet dog having been associated with a 9% decreased probability of child scoring greater than or equal to 3 in the SCARED-5.

“Our study results suggest that children who have a pet dog in the home have a lower anxiety screening score than children who do not,” wrote Dr. Gadomski and her colleagues.

Further research on the anxiety levels of children with pet dogs should determine whether having a pet dog prevents a child from being anxious, and if so, how pets contribute to this absence of anxiety in children, they noted.

Read the full study in Preventing Chronic Disease (doi: 10.5888/pcd12.150204).

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