Washington, D.C. (January 16, 2019) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced funding for five new research projects focused on the positive effects of human-animal interaction on human health. These new studies will examine the influence of pet ownership, pet caretaking or animal-assisted therapy on a wide array of health conditions among a varied group of populations, including older adults, children with pediatric cancer, and suicidal adolescents.
“With human-animal interaction research more clearly documenting the impact of the human-animal bond on mental and physical health, it is important to support research on how companion animals can benefit vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Bob Vetere, HABRI President and Chair of the Board of Trustees. “This new group of research projects is particularly exciting as two of the studies will add to existing HABRI research results on the benefits of dog walking for physical activity and the impact of therapy animal visitation on the quality of life of pediatric cancer patients. Two studies will look at mental health and preventing suicide among teenagers, a population that is often overlooked.”
Out of a total of more than 40 proposals received, HABRI has funded the following five research projects:
- Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD (University of Sydney): Increasing Dog-walking in the Community: What is the Potential of Wearable Dog Trackers? The PAWalks Trial
- Megan MacDonald, PhD and Monique Udell, PhD (Oregon State University): Joint Physical and Social Well-being for Adolescents and Their Family Dog
- Mary Jo Gilmer, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN (Vanderbilt University): Pilot Study of the Effects of Animal-Assisted Interactions (AAI) on Quality of Life in Children with Life-Threatening Conditions (LTC) and their Parents
- Sandy Branson, PhD, MSN, RN (Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth): Pet Caretaking and Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Older U.S. Adults Participating in a Nationwide Longitudinal Probability Cohort Study
- Alexander Muela, PhD (University of Basque Country): Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy for Youth in Residential Care: Preventing Suicide
“As HABRI enters its sixth grant funding cycle, we look forward to supporting these important projects, which will help expand our knowledge of the many ways companion animals are essential to human health and wellness,” added Vetere.
Since HABRI’s founding in 2010, HABRI has funded 26 competitive research projects from institutions across the globe, and has supported the creation of the world’s most comprehensive online library of human-animal interaction research, bringing its research funding to more than $2.75 million.
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information about HABRI, visit www.habri.org.
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When Doctors Ask About Pets, Good Things Happen
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $55,000 grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital for a groundbreaking research study, Using the Pet Query to Assess Patients’ Environmental History and Social Context, to explore how questions about pet ownership can help healthcare professionals better serve their patients. “If primary care practitioners – physicians, nurse practitioners, and social workers – just ask patients about pets in their families, a whole new world of patient care is open to them,” said Dr. Kate Hodgson, co-investigator of the study, veterinarian and Certified Continuing Medical Education Professional. “Pets can build social capital, motivate healthy behavior change, catalyze harm reduction, and even participate in a patient’s treatment plan.” It is expected that by utilizing the Pet Query, (Do you live with companion animals? How many? What species?) patients will be more open about their environmental history and habits, allowing healthcare providers to better assess and address their patients’ health. Pets can then become powerful catalysts and motivators for patients’ healthy choices and behaviors. In addition to enabling primary care providers to leverage the health benefits of companion animals, asking about pets in the family assists in identifying and mitigating any associated risk. “This grant to Markham Stouffville Hospital is an important stepping-stone in HABRI’s mission of investigating and sharing the healing power of companion animals,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “We know 97% of doctors already believe in the health benefits of pets. This research will give them practical tools to act on this belief.” The 12-month study will survey 150-200 healthcare professionals ranging from family physicians to social workers on how specific behaviors relate to pet ownership and how to integrate that information into healthcare practices.
New Study to Examine Benefits of Pets for Older Americans
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $43,000 grant to the University of Missouri for a new study to explore how companion animals effect social engagement and psychological well-being in adults ages 55+. The primary objective of the study is to examine the influence of companion animal ownership on the social engagement (social contacts and organizational participation) and psychological well being (life satisfaction and depression) of adults. It aims to discover if companion animal owners have better social engagement and well-being than those who do not during mid- (55-64 years) and later (65+) adulthood, in addition to exploring the differences between the two age groups. “We are excited to be able to look at how having a cat or dog impacts social engagement and mental health for middle-aged and older adults,” said Dr. Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, lead investigator and professor at the University of Missouri. “We believe that people who have a dog or cat will be less socially isolated, have lower depression, and higher life satisfaction compared to non-pet owners.” The research team will analyze data from a recent national study, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and utilize a novel approach in looking at those individuals who participated in an experimental human-animal interaction portion of the survey to provide a robust contribution to information on how companion animals can impact this demographic. The project is expected to be complete in one year. “With 75 million baby boomers entering mid and later adulthood it is vital that we understand how everything, including pets, can improve their lives,” said HABRI Executive Director Steve Feldman. “With the results of this study in hand, potential pet owners will have new information about the benefits of bringing a pet into their lives, and health care providers could more frequently consider prescribing pets for older Americans in their care.”
Will Reading to Rabbits Improve Student Skills?
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) today announced it has awarded a $13,000 grant to the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies for a new study, Listening EARS: How Does Reading to Rabbits Affect Reading Skills of Third Grade Students?, to uncover how reading aloud to a non-threatening presence, like a classroom rabbit, helps improve students’ reading skills. “The human-animal bond can lessen the stress young children can feel when taking on challenging tasks in the classroom, like reading aloud,” said Dr. Annie Petersen, Ed.D., Principal Investigator in the Listening EARS study. “This study will provide us with a valuable tool to understand and act on the benefits of small animals to student learning and development.” By utilizing small animals already present in classrooms (e.g. rabbits and guinea pigs), it is predicted that classroom interactions with an animal will improve 3rd grade students’ oral fluency and reading comprehension, two essential measures of academic success. “HABRI is committed to studying the impact of companion animals on child health and development,” said Steve Feldman, Executive Director of HABRI. “This new research will contribute to the growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of pets in the classroom.”