Published in the October 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine
On college campuses in the U.S. and around the world, pets are lending a paw to stressed-out students. With many collegians reporting depression, anxiety, and other ills—a 2013 study sponsored by the American College Counseling Association says one in three has used counseling services—school officials arrange “pet therapy” events to spread cheer and fight stress, especially during exams.
These aren’t service animals trained to assist people with disabilities; most are the pets of volunteers. Their visits are demonstrably beneficial: Research shows that contact with pets can decrease blood pressure and stress-hormone levels and increase so-called happiness hormones. Mary Margaret Callahan, a director at the nonprofit Pet Partners, considers pet house calls on campus “a great way to support students in being successful.”
—Lindsay N. Smith