The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 2000
Research Theme: "A Study of the Stress Relief Effects of Companion Animals"

By Kotaro Taneichi
Mr. Taneichi is a doctoral student at Waseda University Graduate School, majoring in clinical psychology. In the past, he has tackled the question of whether human support has a positive influence on health. This led him to the current line of research. The project is an investigation of whether keeping companion animals has stress relief effects for the owners. Mr. Taneichi says his idea for the project emerged when he asked college students the question 'Who do you confide in and tell your worries to?,' and several subjects mentioned names of their pets. More than a few people think having pets has psychologically beneficial effects, but this question has not often been approached academically. And approaches to the subject from the field of psychology have been especially rare.

Mr. Taneichi conducted a questionnaire survey of 239 students of Waseda University, and also created the ACSS, a scale for characterizing human-animal relationships. His research began with the creation of a provisional ACSS. Based on existing scales in the United States and Europe and on opinions from veterinarians and pet owners, 145 questions were created, and after categorizing them, the provisional scale was created with 30 items. Then in April-June, the questionnaire survey was conducted during college lecture time. The outcome was a scale comprising three groups of criteria — emotional support from pets, perceived confidence of the pet in the owner, and interaction with pets — and 10 items.

Comparisons with ACSS scores revealed that those who own pets at home or at their parents' homes tend to have higher scores the more time they spend with their pets per day on average. The comparison also found that cat owners showed a tendency to have higher scores in the 'interaction with pets' item than those who own dogs and other animals. In addition, Taneichi conducted hierarchical multiple regression analysis to predict stress reaction scores by cross-referencing factors such as whether the subject owns a pet or not, stress event scores and total ACSS scores. The result showed that there was no relation between whether the person owns pets or not and stress reaction level. On the other hand, ACSS scores differed depending on whether or not the person owns a pet. That is, in those who own pets, the higher their ACSS scores are, the lower their stress reaction scores are, while there was no relation between the two among non-pet owners. From these findings, Taneichi thought it highly possible that affection for pets and interactions such as taking care of pets are linked with lowering of stress reactions.

In addition, Mr. Taneichi said this result was actually a surprise to him. He said he initially had a skeptical frame of mind when he studied the correlation of health and having a pet. He seems to have thought that the correlation merely comes from subjective judgment of pet owners and or their illusions. "However, as a result of this research analysis, my doubts were nullified," he concluded.