Special Issue "The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions"

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Aubrey H. Fine Website E-Mail
Department of Education, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA 91768, USA
Interests: animal assisted interventions; social skills; parenting

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue on the psycho-social impact of human-animal interactions (HAIs) on health in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The venue is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes articles and communications in the interdisciplinary area of environmental health sciences and public health. For detailed information on the journal, we refer you to https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph.

The study of HAI has received an enormous amount of multidisciplinary interest over the past few decades, including research on therapy and service animals. Our relationships with nonhuman animals is now being examined in more depth to understand the physiological and psycho-social benefits of these interactions throughout the lifespan. Additional attention has been given to investigating the role of animals in supporting the lives of vulnerable populations, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

This Special Issue is open to any subject area related to the psycho-social benefits of human-animal interactions. The listed keywords suggest just a few of the many possibilities.

Prof. Dr. Aubrey H. Fine
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Human-animal interactions
  • Human animal bond
  • Health benefits of companion animals
  • Psychological benefits of pets with the elderly
  • Psycho-social benefits of AAI with persons with disabilities
  • HAI and its role in trauma
  • Pet companionship
  • Cross cultural differences and similarities in HAI
  • Animal-assisted interventions
  • Animals and social capital
  • Animal welfare concerns
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Assistance and service animals
  • Pet bereavement and loss

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Does Dog Ownership Affect Physical Activity, Sleep, and Self-Reported Health in Older Adults?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(18), 3355; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16183355 - 11 Sep 2019
Abstract
Physical activity (PA) is crucial for maintaining good health of older adults and owning a dog and walking it can enforce it. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of dog ownership on PA in older adults as well as [...] Read more.
Physical activity (PA) is crucial for maintaining good health of older adults and owning a dog and walking it can enforce it. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of dog ownership on PA in older adults as well as its positive impact on perceived degree of health, and sleep. There were 44 participants of mean age 68 ± 5.4 years (18 males, 26 females) enrolled in this study (dog owners—DO, n = 26; non-dog owners—NDO, n = 18). Xiaomi Mi Band 2 accelerometer, International Physical Activity Questionnaire- Short form (IPAQ-Short Form) and SF-36 questionnaires were used to measure the level of PA, sleep, and subjective health. A statistically significant difference was observed in favor of dog owners in most of the monitored parameters. All accelerometer PA parameters (step count, activity time, distance, calories) showed a significant difference at a p < 0.01. Sleep parameters were significant in total sleep length (p = 0.05) and light sleep length (p < 0.05). DO reported higher total PA time (min/week), MET/min/week spent in walking, and spent calories/week (p < 0.05). In SF-36 they reported higher score (p < 0.05) in general health, physical functioning, social functioning, pain, vitality, and emotional well-being. Body mass index (BMI) was significantly lower in the DO group (p < 0.01). The results suggest that dog ownership may affect the overall PA and health of older adults. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Evaluation of Undergraduate Students’ Responsiveness to a 4-Week University-Based Animal-Assisted Stress Prevention Program
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(18), 3331; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16183331 - 10 Sep 2019
Abstract
An increase in the prevalence of stress among college students is compromising their mental health and academic success. One approach to stress prevention that has seen a surge in implementation is the use of university-based Animal Visitation Programs (AVPs). Despite their popularity and [...] Read more.
An increase in the prevalence of stress among college students is compromising their mental health and academic success. One approach to stress prevention that has seen a surge in implementation is the use of university-based Animal Visitation Programs (AVPs). Despite their popularity and promising causal findings, program evaluations on students’ responsiveness (e.g., enjoyment, attendance, perceptions on usefulness and behavioral change) have yet to be conducted. Using a mixed methods approach, this study reports results of a program evaluation embedded in a randomized controlled trial examining the efficacy of incorporating various levels (0%, 50% or 100%) of Human Animal Interaction (HAI) into a four-week long university-based stress prevention program resulting in three conditions: (1) Evidence-based Academic Stress Management content only (0% HAI), (2) Human Animal Interaction with therapy dogs only (100% HAI) and (3) equal combinations of Academic Stress Management and HAI (50% HAI). Responsiveness (e.g., enjoyment, usefulness, recommendation and behavioral change) was assessed quantitatively and qualitatively using self-reported survey data collected immediately following the program and again six weeks later. The results suggest that combining evidence-based content presentations with HAI was associated with higher levels of enjoyment, perceived usefulness, and likelihood of recommendation compared to presenting content presentation or HAI alone, although doing so did not result in differences in perceived behavioral change by condition. Themes of students’ perceptions on the role of HAI in shaping program enjoyment, usefulness, recommendations and behavioral change were described. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle
Observing Live Fish Improves Perceptions of Mood, Relaxation and Anxiety, But Does Not Consistently Alter Heart Rate or Heart Rate Variability
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3113; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173113 - 27 Aug 2019
Abstract
Although fish and other aquatic species are popular privately-kept pets, little is known about the effects of watching live fish on the perceptions of arousal and the link between those perceptions and physiological measures of arousal. In two separate experiments, participants were asked [...] Read more.
Although fish and other aquatic species are popular privately-kept pets, little is known about the effects of watching live fish on the perceptions of arousal and the link between those perceptions and physiological measures of arousal. In two separate experiments, participants were asked to watch identically-equipped fish tanks for five minutes in each of three conditions: (1) Live fish, (2) plants and water, and (3) empty tank. Linear mixed models used across both experiments revealed similar results: Greater perceptions of relaxation and mood, and less anxiety during or after viewing the live fish condition, compared with the other conditions. Heart rate and heart rate variability responded to the arousal associated with a math task, but did not differ consistently across viewing conditions. These results suggest that the link between perceptions of arousal, and the physiological measures associated with arousal, may not be strong or immediate, or that heart rate and heart rate variability may not be appropriate measures for the test population. Implications of these results for the biophilia hypothesis and the biopsychosocial model are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle
“There Is a Cat on Our Ward”: Inpatient and Staff Member Attitudes toward and Experiences with Cats in a Psychiatric Ward
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3108; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173108 - 27 Aug 2019
Abstract
The aim of this study was to investigate inpatient and staff member attitudes toward and experiences with ward cats, and identify possible mechanisms for how cats affect patient satisfaction in a psychiatric clinic. Thirty-three inpatients diagnosed with depression or psychosis residing on wards [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to investigate inpatient and staff member attitudes toward and experiences with ward cats, and identify possible mechanisms for how cats affect patient satisfaction in a psychiatric clinic. Thirty-three inpatients diagnosed with depression or psychosis residing on wards with and without cats and 17 staff members working on wards with cats participated in semi-structured interviews using a cross-sectional study design. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and correlations. The results showed that 17 out of 19 inpatients and all the staff members liked having a cat on their ward. Further, 12 out of 14 inpatients on wards without cats would like having a cat on their ward. Inpatient perceptions of the cat’s impact on the ward atmosphere correlated significantly with their emotional relationship with the cat (p = 0.015, r = 0.561), how often they saw the cat (p = 0.002, r = 0.676), and if they liked cats in general (p = 0.041, r = 0.486). Our results highlight the positive attitudes of inpatients and staff members toward ward cats and the potential of ward cats to enhance patient satisfaction. This influence might be mediated by factors such as the frequency of contact, the relationship between each patient and the cat, and each patient’s attitude toward cats in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
Open AccessArticle
Animal-Assisted Intervention Improves Pain Perception in Polymedicated Geriatric Patients with Chronic Joint Pain: A Clinical Trial
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(16), 2843; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16162843 - 09 Aug 2019
Abstract
Chronic joint pain is associated to an increase in the consumption of medication and decrease in life quality in elderly people, which requires developing non-pharmacological treatments. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectivity of a group intervention, based on animal-assisted [...] Read more.
Chronic joint pain is associated to an increase in the consumption of medication and decrease in life quality in elderly people, which requires developing non-pharmacological treatments. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectivity of a group intervention, based on animal-assisted therapy and applied to elderly people with chronic joint pain and polymedication, regarding the decrease of chronic pain, use of analgesics and improvement of life quality. A randomized controlled trial, two arms and open-label was conducted in a Primary Health Center. Twelve weekly sessions of kinesitherapy; in the EG, these exercises were performed with the additional assistance of the therapy dog. A total of 52 participants (22 Control Group (CG), 30 EG), average age 77.50 (±7.3), women 90.4%. A significant reduction on post-intervention values of pain β = −0.67(−1.27, −0.08), p = 0.03 and pain induced insomnia β = −0.53(−1.01, −0.05), p = 0.03 was found in EG for increasing baseline values. Animal-assisted therapy leads to an additional reduction in the perception of pain and pain induced insomnia in individuals with higher baseline severity. The presence of the dog improves the attachment to intervention and the satisfaction of the participants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle
Case Study: How Horses Helped a Teenager with Autism Make Friends and Learn How to Work
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(13), 2325; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16132325 - 01 Jul 2019
Abstract
I was born in 1947 and had autism with speech delay until age four. I am now a college professor of animal science. Horse activities enabled me to make friends through a shared interest in horses. This paper describes the benefits that I [...] Read more.
I was born in 1947 and had autism with speech delay until age four. I am now a college professor of animal science. Horse activities enabled me to make friends through a shared interest in horses. This paper describes the benefits that I experienced from working with horses and my friendships and work skills. A close friendship developed with another student through both riding and horse craft projects. Keeping employment is a serious problem for many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The responsibility of caring for horses and cleaning stalls every day taught me good work skills. My experiences suggest that there were valuable outcomes from working with horses. This may be a beneficial intervention to include in programming for youth with ASD. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
Open AccessArticle
Companion Animal Ownership and Human Well-Being in a Metropolis—The Case of Hong Kong
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(10), 1729; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101729 - 16 May 2019
Abstract
Global urbanization has given cause for a re-assessment of the nature and importance of the relationship between humans and domesticated animals. In densely-populated urban societies, where loneliness and alienation can be prevalent, the use of animals as human companions has taken on heightened [...] Read more.
Global urbanization has given cause for a re-assessment of the nature and importance of the relationship between humans and domesticated animals. In densely-populated urban societies, where loneliness and alienation can be prevalent, the use of animals as human companions has taken on heightened importance. Hong Kong is the world’s most urbanised political entity, and thus provides an ideal context for the exploration of the role of animals in the provision of companionship for human beings in cities. A web-based survey with descriptive analyses, regression, and ANOVA was conducted. Six-hundred-and-forty-seven companion animal owners and 312 non-owners completed the survey that examined their socio-demographic information, companion animal ownership status, and physical-psychosocial well-being. The statistically significant findings appear to suggest that socio-demographic variables (i.e., age, gender, housing, and education level) have stronger predictive values than companion animal ownership status with respect to the well-being of people in Hong Kong. Due the unique environmental features in Hong Kong, the positive impacts of companion animal ownership on the physical well-being of owners may be limited by the city’s cramped living space and the limited number of people who own companion animals. However, results suggested that companion animals may still serve as a social lubricant between the owners and their significant others, thereby playing a heightened role significant role in enhancing general social connectedness in a metropolis. Given the importance of animals as human companions, it is suggested that relevant administrative agencies need to consider the development of policies and facilities which are conducive to both the maintenance and development of the bonds between humans and their companion animals and the physical and psychosocial health of both. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating the Relationship between Well-Being and Living with a Dog for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Feasibility Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1472; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081472 - 25 Apr 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Chronic low back pain is a significant societal and personal burden that negatively impacts quality of life. Dog ownership has been associated with health benefits. This study evaluated the feasibility of surveying people with chronic low back pain to assess the relationship between [...] Read more.
Chronic low back pain is a significant societal and personal burden that negatively impacts quality of life. Dog ownership has been associated with health benefits. This study evaluated the feasibility of surveying people with chronic low back pain to assess the relationship between dog ownership and well-being. A mail-out survey was sent to 210 adult patients with chronic low back pain. Measures of quality of life, pain, physical activity, emotional health, social ties and dog ownership were included. Feasibility was assessed by examining survey response rate, responses to established and newly developed measures, and the potential relationships between dog ownership and a number of key well-being variables in this patient population. There were 56 completed surveys returned (n = 36 non-dog owners and n = 20 dog owners). Established, adapted and newly developed scales revealed promising results. Dog owners reported fewer depression and anxiety symptoms, and more social ties than non-dog owners. Living with a dog may be associated with improved well-being for people with chronic pain. The findings from this feasibility study will inform a general population survey, to be conducted with a larger, more representative sample of people living with chronic pain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
Open AccessArticle
Effect of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Patients in the Department of Long-Term Care: A Pilot Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1362; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081362 - 16 Apr 2019
Abstract
Long-term hospital stays might have a negative psychosocial impact on our patients. One way to positively activate hospitalized patients is to introduce animal-assisted therapy (AAT). A total of 72 individuals participated in this research. The experimental group comprised 33 patients (8 males, 25 [...] Read more.
Long-term hospital stays might have a negative psychosocial impact on our patients. One way to positively activate hospitalized patients is to introduce animal-assisted therapy (AAT). A total of 72 individuals participated in this research. The experimental group comprised 33 patients (8 males, 25 females), while the control group contained 39 patients (11 men, 28 women). The participants in the control group were aged from 58 to 100 years and the experimental group featured participants aged from 51 to 95, for whom AAT was included alongside standard care. Blood pressure, heart rate, Barthel index, and general mood were measured in both groups. Results did not reveal any changes in blood pressure, heart rate, or Barthel index in comparison between groups. A great influence was noted in assessment of the mood of the patients. The inclusion of AAT did not affect physiological parameters, but it exerted a significant effect on the psychological well-being of the patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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Open AccessConcept Paper
A One Health Research Framework for Animal-Assisted Interventions
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 640; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040640 - 21 Feb 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Background: The integration of animals into healthcare, referred to as animal-assisted intervention, is a rapidly growing research field and was previously related to One Health. However, the assessment of synergistic effects of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) has been poorly addressed to date. Method: We [...] Read more.
Background: The integration of animals into healthcare, referred to as animal-assisted intervention, is a rapidly growing research field and was previously related to One Health. However, the assessment of synergistic effects of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) has been poorly addressed to date. Method: We discuss experiences in integrated human and animal assessments in AAI and provide a methodical framework for One Health approaches in AAI research. We propose theoretical consideration of an integrated human and animal health assessment, as well as the use of such an integrated approach in research. Based on the existing research, we argue that, for a deeper understanding of AAI mechanisms, parallel research designs are needed. Results and Conclusion: Our paper shows that a One Health study design is necessary to ensure that a tradeoff in health of animals is prevented and that an added value, or synergistic benefit, can be achieved on both sides during animal-assisted interventions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psycho-Social Impact of Human-Animal Interactions)
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