Pets help care for caregivers, study finds

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The health sector is increasingly using animals to treat patients’ ailments. But the scientific literature has so far paid little attention to their effects on caregivers. A recent study rightly states that paramedical professionals have every interest in dealing with animals on a daily basis.

A Chinese research team came to this conclusion after conducting an experiment with 1,309 nurses aged between 18 and 59. These volunteers were, for the most part, married women who have worked in health care for six to fifteen years. Some had one or more pets (16.9% owned at least one), particularly dogs or cats. The researchers asked study participants to answer questionnaires and take a test assessing their level of self-compassion, that is, their ability to show kindness to themselves.

They found that caregivers seem to benefit from the presence of a four-legged companion in their daily lives. “Pet owners had higher levels of caring, common humanity (awareness that individual struggles are an integral part of the shared human experience) and mindfulness than non-pet owners, indicating a positive effect of pet ownership on self-compassion“, we can read in their article, published in PeerJ.

These findings are important because self-compassion is a fundamental approach for caregivers. Scientific work has claimed that this quality is associated with improved psychological and emotional well-being, increased social connection, and greater life satisfaction. It would also help fight stress, anxiety and depression.

However, a large number of reports show that the mental health state of nurses continues to deteriorate, year after year, because of their working conditions and the stressful nature of their profession. Pets could provide relief and improve their quality of life, as they do with the patients with whom they interact in hospitals or retirement homes practicing pet therapy.

However, the above-mentioned research has limitations given that it is essentially based on self-assessments. “(Our) results support the idea that pet ownership is associated with self-compassion, but the mechanisms by which pet attachment and self-compassion interact must do so. subject of further study“, emphasize the scientists.