“Stress relievers” that typically come to mind in reference to college life include partying hard, engaging in fraternity shenanigans, and ordering pizza. Add pet ownership to that list. A new study out of Ohio State University found that pets– not beer– are help college students to get through difficult times.
Transitioning from home to campus comes with its own set of unique challenges; college students must negotiate entirely new environments, and simultaneously build new networks of friends. Isolation and depression often result. Those students who owned either a cat or dog, or both, reported fewer feelings of isolation, and were, in general, less overwhelmed with the changes that characterize life’s college stage. Those surveyed stated that pet ownership contributed to their overall health. The researchers identified three key benefits of pet ownership for all people: pets provide companionship (thereby staving off loneliness), keep their owners physically active, and provide a measure of stability and simplicity in difficult times.
While extensive studies regarding the positive benefits of pet companionship on the elderly and chronically ill, this study shed new light on the impact of four-legged friends on co-eds.
It’s important to remember that a pet is not a health-maintenance accessory, and requires a lot more care and long-term consideration than, say, a yoga mat. Life changes quickly during the college years, and many people may not be able to commit to the care of an animal for many years to come (if this rings true for you, go for the yoga mat). And, while the benefits of pet ownership are substantial, these relationships can not substitute human social interaction and support. So go ahead and get a dog (if you really can take care of it), but get a dog-sitter, too, and party on.