Keeping hens is reducing depression, loneliness and the need for antipsychotic medication

Human – animal interaction can be observed in many situations, from the human
being an interested observer of animals in their native habitat to pets co-habiting the
same residence of their owner. When the interaction has specific goals and function
it can be defined as AAT, this may include animal assisted activities and interventions
designed to have a therapeutic effect.

The goals of using animals as a treatment option can be broadly expressed as
improving the person’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning and reducing
passivity. Berget and Braastad (2011) refer to evidence which flags up three benefits
of AAT: animals can have a positive effect on lowering a person’s stress and anxiety:
secondly animals can facilitate and enhance social interaction, acting as a focus and
providing a ‘stress buffer:’ and lastly, AAT can help a person develop or improve their
coping mechanisms and self-efficacy. The problems addressed by AAT are broad,
including animals providing assistance to humans (such as guide dogs for those with
visual problems; seizure assistance dogs), helping allergy desensitisation and
providing early warning for some disorders (Wells 2009) as well as addressing social
and emotional problems. Various types of animals have been used in AAT, such as
domesticated pets (cats), marine animals (dolphins) and non-domestic animals
(camels). The most popular forms of AAT are Canine therapy, Dolphin therapy, and
Equine therapy.

This evidence points to animals having a positive effect on health when humans are
actively engaged with them. Wells (2009), for example, cites several studies that
demonstrate a causal link between merely being in the presence of an animal, and/
or physically interacting with animals. Benefits include a reduction in blood pressure,
heart rate, serum triglycerides (high levels are linked with increased risks of
myocardial infarction) and increase in neuro-chemicals that contribute to relaxation,
Walsh (2009) includes a reduction in cholesterol levels (associated with risk of stroke
and heart attack) in her list of benefits associated with pet ownership. Wells (2009)
comments that animals serve as moderators of stress’ (pg525) whilst Walsh (2009)
highlights links between companion animals and our (human) ‘well-being,
connectedness and resilience’.

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