Growing up with animals develops mental resilience, according to study

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  • Growing up in a rural environment with lots of contact with animals may help boost mental health
  • Research has shown that people who grew up in a rural community with exposure to pets developed mental resilience than those who were raised in the city with no animal contact
  • Researchers revealed that they did not take into account other necessary factors, yet they believe that spending time with nature and animals provides mental health benefits to humans
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A study has found out that exposure to animals and bacteria-laden dust develop mental resilience.

According to the research conducted by the University of Ulm in Germany and CU Boulder, children who grew up in a rural environment with lots of contact with animals tend to have more stress-resilient immune systems and have a lower risk of having mental illnesses than those who were raised in the city with no exposure to animals at all.

“It has already been very well documented that exposure to pets and rural environments during development is beneficial in terms of reducing risk of asthma and allergies later in life,” according to CU Boulder professor of integrative physiology and co-author Christopher Lowry.

“This study moves the conversation forward by showing for the first time in humans that these same exposures are likely to be important for mental health,” he said.

The scientists tested a total of 40 healthy German male aged 20-40 years old. Half of them grew up on a farm with farm animals while half were raised in a large city without pets.

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They were asked to talk in front of a group of straight-faced audience and resolve a difficult math problem within a time constraint. Blood and saliva samples were taken from them five minutes before the test, then 15, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after.

Researchers admitted that there is still a need to expand the study to larger samples such as to females and other factors to be considered in the research. Yet, they believe that eating food rich in healthy bacteria, spending time with nature, and hanging out with animals provide mental health benefits.

“A lot of research still needs to be done. But it looks as if spending as much time as possible, preferably during upbringing, in environments offering a wide range of microbial exposures has many beneficial effects,” said co-author of the study Stefan Reber.

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