Student Research Opportunities Program
Introduction Rates of mental health concerns among college students are rising. A recent World Health Organization Survey of ~14,000 students revealed clinically concerning scores on anxiety, depression and substance use disorder for 31% . With these high levels of clinically concerning scores in college students, great amounts of stress are the result, which have been negatively correlated with greater feelings of loneliness and lower hedonic well-being (satisfaction in life), without proper social support . We explored potential mental health benefits of canine companions in the college setting by collecting psychosocial measures from both dog-owners and non-dog-owners assessing their levels of anxiety, loneliness, and hedonic well-being. We also explored how the dimensions of dog cognition look when correlated with their owners' scores on measures assessing their mental health. We assessed these levels of dog cognition through The Dognition Assessment, a web-based assessment for dog cognition and reasoning. Dognition measures levels of canine empathy, communication, as well as cunning (Figure 3). Dognition has been found to produce very similar results whether performed in a laboratory or in a home as citizen science .
• Hypothesis 1. Students living with dogs ( n = 20 ) will have lower anxiety and loneliness and higher satisfaction with life in comparison with a matched group of students not living with dogs ( n = 17).
• Hypothesis 2. Among the student-canine dyads, canines with higher scores on empathy, communication, and cunning—measured via The Dognition Assessment—will have human partners with lower anxiety and loneliness and higher satisfaction with life.
Brooking, Aaron; Simpson, David M.; Hatchell, Mindy; Van Zant, Adam; Moore, Alexis; Connors, Lindsey; Clarke, Julianna; and Sephton, Sandra E., "Do Canine Companions Reduce College Stress?" (2020). Undergraduate Research Events. 6.