TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — One of Taiwan’s leading mental health foundations has promoted the findings of an international study that found that interacting and playing with animals for at least ten minutes per day effectively reduces stress.

The John Tung Foundation Mental Health Center posted on Oct. 29 about a study undertaken in July by Washington State University scholars. The study investigated the effects that petting and playing with animals had on students’ hormone and cortisone levels.

In the study, which was published in AERA Open, researchers randomly divided 249 college students into 4 groups: a group that could pet animals for ten minutes, another that had to wait in line for ten minutes and could only watch others petting animals, one that could only look at pictures of animals, and an unfortunate group told they would soon be able to see the animals but were ultimately unable to see or touch them.

The researchers found that levels of salivary cortisol (an indication of high stress) in the students who interacted with animals were significantly lower than the other groups. It was concluded that ten minutes of petting had alleviated these students’ stress.

Yeh Ya-hsin (葉雅馨), director of the John Tung Foundation Mental Health Center, said that this research provides a good strategy for lowering stress levels on Taiwanese campuses. He noted that hundreds of universities in the United States have implemented animal interaction programs to reduce stress.

Yeh added that besides focusing on academic results, Taiwan’s universities should also actively help relieve students’ stress. Yeh advised teachers to discuss possible solutions with students and provide extended interactive de-stressing methods beyond the internet, games, and student communities.

However, Yeh remarked that external factors, such as time, finances, and a suitable environment should be considered before looking after a pet at home in order to avoid anti-stress-induced stress.

The study is in a similar vein as earlier one, which in 2011 found that after 15 and 30 minutes of a Labrador owner stroking, petting and talking to their dog, the subject’s cortisol levels were significantly lower. Another study of students from 2017 found that students’ psychological stress and blood pressure can be immediately reduced with a 15-minute pet therapy session.

The Washington University study follows in the wake of a survey that ranked Taiwan as having the second-highest levels of stress in the world.