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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep 29;16(19). pii: E3664. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193664.

And in the Middle of My Chaos There Was You?-Dog Companionship and Its Impact on the Assessment of Stressful Situations.

Author information

1
Psychological Outpatient Clinic, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. christine.krouzecky@sfu.ac.at.
2
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. christine.krouzecky@sfu.ac.at.
3
Psychological Outpatient Clinic, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. lisa.emmett@sfu.ac.at.
4
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. lisa.emmett@sfu.ac.at.
5
Psychological Outpatient Clinic, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. armin.klaps@sfu.ac.at.
6
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. armin.klaps@sfu.ac.at.
7
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. jan.aden@sfu.ac.at.
8
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. anastasiya.bunina@sfu.ac.at.
9
Psychological Outpatient Clinic, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. birgit.u.stetina@sfu.ac.at.
10
Faculty of Psychology, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, 1020 Wien, Austria. birgit.u.stetina@sfu.ac.at.

Abstract

Recent studies show evidence that human-dog companionship has healthy effects on humans. For example, findings demonstrate that owning a dog leads to a reduction in stress levels. Aspects that have not been taken into consideration so far are underlying theoretical principles of stress like the sense of coherence (SOC) by Aaron Antonovsky. The SOC consists of psycho-social, biochemical and physical conditions which indicate whether or not inner and outer stimuli are comprehensive, manageable and meaningful to an individual. In addition, it is still unclear if owning a dog affects the subjective assessment of critical life events (CLE), which is associated with the strength of the SOC (the stronger the SOC, the better the handling and assessment of stressful situations). Based on these aspects, the goal of the study was to examine if dog ownership, as well as values of the SOC, have an impact on the subjective evaluation of CLE (including daily hassles as well as unexpected critical life events). For this purpose, dog owners and non-dog owners were surveyed online and were compared based on their personal estimations regarding these constructs. Statistical analysis including t-tests, correlations and interaction-analyses were performed and a significant difference between dog owners and non-dog owners regarding the assessment of daily hassles was found. Contrary to expectations, results show that dog owners assessed daily stressors to be more stressful than non-dog owners did. Moreover, data show that the higher the number of stated relationships (inner- and cross-species), the more stressful life events were assessed to be. Calculations showed no evidence for the influence of dogs regarding the SOC. Based on the actual findings, it might be assumed, that an overestimation of the dog's protective role regarding stress has taken place in public media and in research as well.

KEYWORDS:

critical life events; human-dog relationship; inner- and cross-species relationships; role-specific responsibilities; sense of coherence

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