There’s a fascinating study out of the University of British Columbia study that shows that animal-assisted therapy can help students combat homesickness and help lower post-secondary drop-out rates. “Transitioning from high school to university can prove to be a challenge for many first-year students,” says professor John Tyler Binfet of UBC’s Okanagan campus in this article in Science Daily.
In the study, first-year university students who self-identified as homesick were given a survey to measure levels of homesickness, satisfaction with life and connectedness with campus. Half of the students completed eight weeks of dog therapy, while the other half were informed that their sessions would begin in eight weeks’ time. Dog therapy included 45-minute weekly sessions involving small group interactions with the dogs and handlers, and engagement with other first-year students participating in the study.
Following the initial eight-week session, participants in both the treatment group and the non-treatment group completed the survey again. Participants who completed the eight-week program experienced significant reductions in homesickness and greater increase in satisfaction with life. Participants reported that sessions felt like they were at home chatting with friends who brought their puppies. While the non-treatment group reported an increase in their feelings of homesickness and showed symptoms of mental health issues as depression and anxiety.