Question Does pet ownership reduce stress in high school students?IntroductionWhen entering high school, students are overwhelmed with stress from tests/quizzes, SAT/ACT, homework, and pressure to get good grades. In addition to academic stress, students are introduced to world of drugs, sexuality, drama, and fashion. Some ways to reduce stress are sleep, exercise, and writing in diaries. However, there has been research on the effects of pets on stress. Many studies have shown that pets have the ability to reduce stress in humans. These studies mainly focus on older people, sick people, and those who have stressful jobs.Heart Rate The literature focusing on heart rate had two opposing views. Much of the literature agreed that heart rate was reduced by the presence of pets. Warwick Anderson (2001) PhD in physiology, in Presence of a Pet dog and Human Cardiovascular Responses to Mild Mental Stress, notes that the bond between the owner and the pet would affect the results of heart rate. He focused on the accuracy of blood pressure and heart rate in humans and their response to dog ownership. The participants included “Seventy-two subjects (37/35 male/female; 35/37 dog owners/non-dog owners; aged 40 + 14) with positive or neutral attitudes towards dogs.” His results showed that “a friendly but unfamiliar dog does not influence BP or HR either at rest or during mild mental stress.” (p. 313) Anderson’s point was found again in Humans’ Bonding with Their Companion Dogs: Cardiovascular Benefits During and After Stress. In this study, Rebecca Campo (2013) examined whether having a companion dog present during and after stress posed similar cardiovascular benefits as having a close friend present, even when the relationship quality for both were highly positive. The study included “a sample of 159 individuals with companion dogs recruited from the community and the University of Utah.” (p. 240) She found that “participants with their dog present had lower DBP and HR reactivity.” (p. 249) In contrast, some of the literature found that pets had no effect on the heart rate of their owners. Johanna Lass-Hennemann (2014) argues in, Presence of a Dog Reduces Subjective but Not Physiological Stress Responses to an Analog Trauma, that heart rate did not respond to the presence of pets on the subject. Her study investigated the hypothesis that dogs have stress and anxiety reducing effects during traumatic events. Her subjects included “80 healthy female students at Saarland University, Germany,” (p.2) and her results showed that “Experimental condition did not influence blood pressure or heart rate response to the trauma film.” (p. 5)Stress/AnxietyResearchers also looked at the effect pets have on stress and anxiety on humans. Again, the literature focusing on this topic had different findings. A majority of the literature found that pets reduce stress and anxiety in their owners. However, each study looked at different subject groups. Karen Allen (2001), PhD in clinical pharmacology, in Pet Ownership, but not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress, explains that pet ownership results in a decrease in stress in their owners. Allen examined the effect of pet ownership on the blood pressure caused by mental stress before and during ACE inhibitor therapy. Participants in her study included “48 hypertensive patients with a high-stress occupation” (p. 815) She found that “one explanation for our findings is that the presence of pets provided the kind of non evaluative social support that is critical to buffering physiological responses to stress.” (p. 818)Johanna Lass-Hennemann (2014) points this out as well in Presence of a Dog Reduces Subjective but Not Physiological Stress Responses to an Analog Trauma. The results of her study showed that “Participants accompanied by a dog reported lower anxiety.” (p. 5) These results were similar to those of Rebecca Campo (2013) in Humans’ Bonding with Their Companion Dogs: Cardiovascular Benefits During and After Stress. She indicates that subjects with dogs showed lower stress levels than the other test subjects, which was proven through her results. They showed that “Follow up comparisons revealed that those with their dog present had a larger decrease in unpleasant-activation during recovery.” (p.246) Nathan Hall (2016), researcher at Texas Tech University, found similar results in Effect of Pet Dogs on Children’s Perceived Stress and Cortisol Stress Response. He tested whether the presence of a child’s pet dog buffered perceived or cortisol stress responses. Participants included “101 children between the ages of 7 and 12 years with no diagnosed medical conditions.” (p. 5) The results showed that “Pet dog presence significantly buffered children’s rise in perceived stress compared to children in the alone or parent present conditions.” (p. 14) Harold Wright used a completely different subject group, however still had similar results to the other literature. In Acquiring a Pet Dog Significantly Reduces Stress of Primary Carers for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, he investigated the effects of a pet dog on the carers of children with autism spectrum disorder. He used “92 participants whom all had a child with confirmed diagnosis of ASD between ages 2-16.” (p. 2532) The results of the study showed that “Dogs may provide a relatively immediate stress buffering effect and that this benefit is relatively enduring.” His study brings up a new argument that not only do dogs have a stress reducing effect, but they also have a lasting effect on their owners. Similar to Wright, Javier Virues-Ortega (2006), PhD, found that if the owner is accustomed with the pet, then it will have stress reducing effects on its owner. In Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interaction, Ortega was brought to this conclusion by “reviewing literature published on the psychophysiological effects of long-term human-animal interaction.” (p. 52) After reviewing the literature presented, his results showed that “Familiar pets could serve to buffer autonomic responses to acute stress.” (p. 56.) The results from both of the studies raise more questions on pet effects on their owners. This could different between each owner and their length of relationship with their pet. However, some of the literature points out that pets have no effect on heart rate. Mariah Picard (2015), masters degree in psychology, was one of the authors to make this argument in Study of the Effect of Dogs on College Students’ Mood and Anxiety. Her study examined whether physical interactions with dogs will have a larger effect on first-year college students’ mood and anxiety than merely observing dogs. Her study included “35 first-year undergraduate students (12 male and 23 female) who were attending the University of Maine in Orono, ranging from 18 to 19 years old.” (p. 9) Picard concluded that “the treatment did not have any effect on the anxiety levels of the first-year college students.” (p. 17) This brings up an opposing idea to the literature already presented. Andrea Beetz (2012), PhD in psychology, presents another idea for reduction of stress in Effects of Social Support by a Dog on Stress Modulation in Male Children with Insecure Attachment. The goal of her study was to “investigate if children with insecure-avoidant/disorganized attachment can profit more from social support by a dog compared to a friendly human during a stressful task.” (p. 1) The participants included “47 male second to fourth graders (age 7–11 years) from a regular school and via several schools for children with learning and emotional and behavior disorders.” (p. 3) She then concluded that “the finding that the stress-dampening effect of the dog was not just due to its mere presence, but actually was related to the intensity of physical contact and active stroking of the dog.” (p. 7) Blood Pressure The literature focusing on blood pressure had three different views on how pets affected it. First, some of the literature argued that pets reduced blood pressure all together. Rebecca Campo (2013), masters in sociology, in Humans’ Bonding with Their Companion Dogs: Cardiovascular Benefits During and After Stress, states that pets reduce stress in the subjects. As previously stated she looked at companion animals and their effect on humans during and after a stressful situation. Her results showed that “Participants with their dog present had lower DBP and HR reactivity.” (p.249) Similarly, Javier Virues-Ortega (2006) again found that pets have the ability to reduce stress. The results of the study help him to conclude that “There is some evidence to show that pet ownership (i.e., long-term interaction with a pet) could result in lowered cardiovascular levels.” (p. 56 ) Second, some of the literature argues that diastolic blood pressure (resting) was affected, but systolic blood pressure (active) was not affected. Karen Allen (2001) states in, Pet Ownership, but not ACE Inhibitor Therapy, Blunts Home Blood Pressure Responses to Mental Stress, that pets only had an effect on resting blood pressure but not active blood pressure. The results from her study allowed her to conclude that “reactivity and basal blood pressure are influenced by independent mechanisms; that is, ACE inhibitor therapy lowers only resting blood pressure, whereas the addition of a social support intervention lowers responses to stress.” (p.817) In comparison, Anthony Jorm (2003), PhD & DSc, found the same results in Pet Ownership and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease. He found that systolic blood pressure was similar between the subjects and had very minimal change, while diastolic blood pressure was affected by pets. The purpose of his study was to look at previous experiments that have showed that pets have helped with human health and synthesize the data in order to conduct their own experiment. He used “2528 Participants were aged between 40 and 44 or between 60 and 64 years.” (p. 466) His results showed that “While pet owners and non-pet owners had similar levels of systolic blood pressure, those with pets had significantly higher diastolic blood pressure.” (p. 467) Despite the two previous ideas, some of the literature presents an opposing view that pets have no effect on blood pressure at all. Johanna Less-Hennemann (2014) in Presence of a Dog Reduces Subjective but Not Physiological Stress Responses to an Analog Trauma, claims that pets did not affect the blood pressure in the subjects. As previously stated, the aim of her study was to investigate whether dogs also have stress and anxiety reducing effects during a traumatic stress situation. The results of her study showed that “Experimental condition did not influence blood pressure or heart rate response to the trauma film.” (p. 5) Hennemann’s point is restated in Warwick Anderson’s (2001) PhD in physiology, Presence of a Pet dog and Human Cardiovascular Responses to Mild Mental Stress. He concluded that “a friendly but unfamiliar dog does not influence BP or HR either at rest or during mild mental stress.” (p. 313)Conclusion In all, the literature presented had different views on blood pressure, heart rate, and stress/anxiety. In each of the perspectives, the literature had findings that contradicted the others. This difference could be due to the different groups of subjects, which differed in age, gender, and medical conditions. For heart rate, some of the literature found that heart rate is decreased by pets or did not have any change. For stress/anxiety, researchers found that stress levels were either lowered by pets or not affected. Lastly, under blood pressure, the literature showed that diastolic blood pressure was lowered, while systolic blood pressure was not affected or blood pressure was unaltered. However, none of the literature focus on pet’s effect on high school students. This will be the aim of the following research.