At present, childhood obesity and mental illness are two of the biggest public health concerns in the United States. Experts say that early preventive intervention is required to stop kids from falling prey to these conditions. Now, a research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is suggesting that having a pet dog at home can protect kids against childhood anxiety.
The US Public Health Service or USPHS since a long time has been talking about pet dogs and their ability to offer health benefits to adults.
Health officials in the UK and Australia have linked dog ownership with healthier BMI (body mass index) in children aged between five and six years and augmented physical activity in children aged between five and 12 years; this happens because having a dog makes kids walk and take part in active play more often.
However, no such data is available for kids in the United States. As a result, there’s need of more evidence for supporting pet ownership as a useful health strategy.
So, how can pets improve mental health? Experts say that pets are capable of stimulating conversations, which in turn has an ice-breaking impact that reduces social anxiety. Dogs are known to follow communicative cues of humans, which might induce emotional development. Previously, it was found that kids aged between seven and eight years rated pets above humans as self-esteem and comfort providers and confidants.
Additionally, AAT or animal-assisted therapy involving dogs has been found to reduce arousal and anxiety, enhance attachment among children, and alleviate separation anxiety. These effects in turn reduce developmental disorders and improve mental health. By promoting emotional and behavioral competence in children, you can prevent them from developing behavioral, mental and emotional disorders in adulthood.
However, here, it must be mentioned that right now primary care providers don’t have enough evidence to counsel parents about the advantages of having pet dogs for kids.
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During this new study, researchers at the Bassett Medical Center, New York, examined the theory that pet dogs are definitely linked with good mental health and healthy weight among children. The study had 643 children aged between four and 10 years (average age of the group was 6.7 years) as participants, who were monitored in a pediatric primary care setting for 18 months. Among the participants, 58% had dogs in their home.
The researchers found that among the children with dogs in their home, 12% had anxiety. However, the share was as high as 21% among kids who didn’t have any pet dog.