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Having a pet dog is already a good way to reduce childhood asthma and obesity, but a new study has found that it may also reduce childhood anxiety, as reported by NBC News.
Researchers say that kids with a dog at home score much lower on clinical measures of anxiety. The study focused on 643 kids between 6 and 7, and found that 12 percent of children with pet dogs tested positive for clinical anxiety, compared to 21 percent of children without a dog.
"It may be that less anxious children have pet dogs or pet dogs make children less anxious," Dr. Anne Gadomski and colleagues wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. "Because dogs follow human communicative cues, they may be particularly effective agents for children's emotional development."
Seventy-three percent of families in the study had pets of some kind, with 58 percent having dogs. And though families with pets may be more stable or affluent, the researchers say there is more to having a dog that benefits kids than family structure alone.
"A pet dog can stimulate conversation, an ice-breaking effect that can alleviate social anxiety via a social catalyst effect," Gadomski and her colleagues wrote. They noted that other studies have shown that playing or cuddling with a dog can release the bonding hormone oxytocin, and lower the stress hormone cortisol.
While the researchers focused on dogs due to the extensive studies already out there on our canine friends, they said that cats may also have the same positive effect on kids' anxiety.