Impact of animal’s visits in depression and anxiety levels

Can the Visits of Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) Influence the Mental Health (Anxiety and Depression) of Male Aging Patients Institutionalized with Dementia in Health Care Units? A Pilot Study of Madeira Island, Portugal, was authored by CIAS’ member, Catarina Casanova, and colleagues from the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD), University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR) and University of Madeira, and Casa São João de Deus Mental Health Unit— Madeira Island. The work is available online in the People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice website.

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Abstract

Despite the fact that in the last decades, several mental health studies have shown that companion animals contribute to psychological and social well- being in humans (e.g., positive impacts have been observed in the elderly medicated for chronic diseases such as anxiety, dementia, and depression), bonds between humans and other animals continue to be under-estimated. The aim of this study is to assess the impact of an animal’s visits (twice a week, N = 30) in depression and anxiety levels of an institutionalized male population diagnosed with dementia. While some of these patients are being partially medicated with antidepressants and/or anxiolytics, others are not subject to any medication (control group). The GAI and GDS measuring instruments were used and there were differences in anxiety and depression levels between the first and last dog visit, statistically significant in depression levels of nonmedicated patients. Such findings allow us to conclude that the effects of the visits of an animal near nonmedicated patients are greater than near medicated ones. The complementary role of animals in mental health institutions where patients are being treated for psychiatric disorders (in the particular case of dementia) should be considered.

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Impact of animal’s visits in depression and anxiety levels

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