Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion
Mental Health and Social Inclusion
Article publication date: 9 April 2018
Humans have close relationships with animals for companionship and in working roles. The purpose of this paper is to discuss recent papers on pets and dog-assisted interventions, and relates their findings to social inclusion.
A search was carried out for recent papers on pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion/exclusion.
One paper discusses theories (often lacking in studies of animal-assisted therapy) of why animals may be good for human health and development. A recent review shows evidence that family pet ownership may aid children’s well-being, learning and social development, but too few studies have followed children over time in pet and non-pet households. Studies of dog-assisted interventions show stress-reduction, which in turn may explain why therapy for mental health in young people and adults was more effective with a dog than without. Social inclusion is hinted at but not measured directly, yet dog-assisted therapy might be helpful in this regard.
All the papers discussed in detail here represent up-to-date understanding in this area of knowledge. Benefits of human-animal bonds, especially with dogs, appear to be well-supported by biological as well as observational and self-report evidence. More research is needed on how much these attachments may assist social relating and relationships with other people, and social inclusion.
Holttum, S. (2018), "Pets, animal-assisted therapy and social inclusion", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 65-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-02-2018-0004
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