The healthcare sector is increasingly integrating animals into treatment protocols for patients with a variety of ailments.
But until now, there’s been little interest in their effects on caregivers when it comes to scientific publications.
However, a recent study shows that paramedical professionals benefit from interacting with animals on a daily basis.
A Chinese research team came to this conclusion after conducting an investigation with 1,309 nurses aged between 18 and 59.
These respondents were, for the most part, married women who had been working in healthcare for between six and 15 years.
Some had one or more pets (16.9% owned at least one), including dogs or cats.
The researchers asked the study participants to answer questionnaires and take a test assessing their degree of self-compassion, i.e. their ability to show kindness to themselves.
They found that caregivers appeared to benefit from the presence of a furry companion in their daily lives.
“Pet owners had a higher level of self-kindness, common humanity (awareness that individual struggles are an integral part of shared human experience) and mindfulness than non-pet owners, which indicated a positive effect of pet ownership on self-compassion,” reads their paper, published in the biological and medical sciences journal PeerJ.
These findings are important because self-compassion is a fundamental quality for caregivers.
Scientific research has shown that this trait is associated with improved psychological and emotional wellbeing, increased social connectedness and greater life satisfaction.
It is also said to help combat stress, anxiety and depression.
However, a large number of reports show that the mental health of nurses is deteriorating year after year, due to their working conditions and the stressful nature of their profession.
Pets could provide relief and improve their quality of life, just as they do with the patients they interact with in hospitals or nursing homes that practice pet therapy.
However, the research has limitations, given that it is essentially based on self-reported information.
“(Our) findings ... support the idea that pet ownership is associated with self-compassion, but the mechanisms by which pet attachment and self-compassion interact need to be further investigated,” the scientists point out. – AFP Relaxnews