Children growing up in cities without pets more likely to develop mental illness, says study

Children growing up in cities without pets more likely to develop mental illness, says study

People who live in the countryside with pets are more resilient to stress and mental health problems compared to people who lead a pet-free life in cities, suggests a recent study by researchers from the University of Ulm in Germany and the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder. The researchers attributed the overall well-being of countryside people to their efficient immune systems due to the exposure to animals and bacteria-laden dust.

For the study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers examined 40 healthy men from Germany — 20 grew up in the countryside alongside farm animals, and the rest were city dwellers living without pets. The 40 men were asked to make a speech in front of an audience and solve mathematical problems that were timed for a specific duration. Additionally, five minutes before the test, and at intervals of five, 15, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after the test, the research team extracted blood from each participant to get a better picture of their immune responses. The findings showed that the city dwellers had higher levels of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) both before and after the test compared to the farm dwellers. Experts say stress raises the PBMCs in the immune system.

According to coauthor of the study Christopher Lowry, being exposed to the outdoors is important for good mental health. “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. 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,” stated Lowry, a professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder.

According to experts, while the human body responds naturally to short-term stress, it is unable to cope with the consequences of long-term stress. High levels of stress is known to heighten one’s chance of suffering from not only mental conditions like anxiety and depressive disorders, but also physical health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Mental problems are treatable

Even today, there is enough stigma and shame surrounding mental health conditions in the American society. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why people grappling with mental problems do not seek treatment for their condition. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that almost one in five adults in the U.S. (around 43.8 million) experiences mental problems in a given year. Shockingly, less than half of them receive treatment for their condition.

Studies show that the deepest regret of those with mental ailments is that they never sought preventive screening or timely treatment, which could have helped them get rid of their suffering. The symptoms can leave a negative impact on the social, physical and mental well-being of such individuals. The fact that the U.S. has secured the 14th place, coming down one spot from 2016 in the global happiness index 2017, is a clear message that mental well-being is on its way to become a rare commodity nationwide.

However, there is a good news. Now, the society is acknowledging that mental problems are real and treatment is the only way forward. When wondering where to start with to find help for psychiatric disorders, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Reach out to us at our 24/7 helpline to know about the finest mental health rehabs in your vicinity and get the best treatment for your needs. You can also use our mental health live chat service to get in touch with one of our representatives for more information.

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