The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the Trier Social Stress Test compared to human friends
- 2.9k Downloads
Limited research has addressed how social support in the form of a pet can affect both sympathetic and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal reactivity in response to a psychological challenge. The present study examined the effects of social support on salivary cortisol and heart rate (HR). Forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to three different conditions (human friend, novel dog, or control). All participants completed the Trier Social Stress Test and provided cortisol, HR, and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory measures. For participants paired with a dog, overall cortisol levels were attenuated throughout the experimental procedure, and HR was attenuated during the Trier Social Stress Test. For all groups, state anxiety increased after the Trier Social Stress Test, and HR during the Trier Social Stress Test was a predictor of cortisol. These results suggest that short-term exposure to a novel dog in an unfamiliar setting can be beneficial. They also suggest a possible mechanism for the beneficial effect associated with affiliation with pets.
KeywordsCortisol Dogs Heart rate Social support Trier Social Stress Test
We wish to thank Lois Fogle and Jazz from Fogle’s Dog Training and Boarding, Ashville, Pennsylvania. We also want to acknowledge our research assistants for their diligent and unyielding dedication: Shawn Robinson; Rebecca Harshbarger; Evelyn Erickson; Theresa Patterson; Victor-Stanley A. Szcepkowicz; Brittany Werkmeister; Chris Lehman and Trevor Aurandt-Dangel. Funding for this study was provided by a Student Initiated Research Grant from the Research Advisory Committee at The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
- Arhant-Sudhir, K., Arhant-Sudhir, R., & Sudhir, K. (2011). Pet ownership and cardiovascular risk reduction: Supporting evidence, conflicting data and underlying mechanisms. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 38, 734–738. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1681.2011.05583.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Collins, P., Al-Nakeeb, Y., Neveill, A., & Lyons, M. (2012). The impact of the built environment on young people’s physical activity patterns: A suburban-rural comparison using GPS. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9, 3030–3050. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9093030 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hoyert, D. L., & Xu, J. (2013). 2011 Preliminary death data released. Public Health Reports, 128, 131.Google Scholar
- Jönsson, P., Wallergård, M., Österberg, K., Hansen, Å. M., Johansson, G., & Karlson, B. (2010). Cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity and habituation to a virtual reality version of the trier social stress test: A pilot study. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35, 1397–1403. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.04.003 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kudielka, B. M., Wüst, S., Kirschbaum, C., & Hellhammer, D. H. (2007). Trier social stress test (pp. 776–781). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Mugford, R. A., & M’Comisky, J. G. (1975). Therapeutic value of cage birds with old people. In R. S. Anderson (Ed.), Pet animals and society. London: Bailiere and Tindall.Google Scholar
- Pruessner, J. C., Dedovic, K., Pruessner, M., Lord, C., Buss, C., Collins, L., et al. (2010). Stress regulation in the central nervous system: Evidence from structural and functional neuroimaging studies in human populations—2008 Curt Richter Award Winner. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35, 179–191. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.02.01 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Qureshi, A. I., Memon, M. Z., Vazquez, G., & Suri, M. F. K. (2009). Cat ownership and the risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases. Results from the second national health and nutrition examination study mortality follow-up study. Journal of Vascular Intervention and Neurology, 2, 132–135.Google Scholar
- Somervill, J. W., Kruglikova, Y. A., Robertson, R. L., Hanson, L. M., & MacLin, O. H. (2008). Physiological responses by college students to a dog and a cat: Implications for pet therapy. North American Journal of Psychology, 10, 519–528.Google Scholar
- Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., & Lushene, R. E. (1970). STAI Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (“Self-evaluation questionnaire”). Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R., Vagg, P. R., & Jacobs, G. A. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. STAI (Form Y): Consulting Psychologists Press Inc.Google Scholar