Watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in anxiety and stress Credit: Representational image

Ever felt the intrinsic need to smile while watching videos of kitties and puppers? Well, now there is scientific data to back that feeling up.

According to a study conducted by the University of Leeds in the UK in partnership with Western, Australia Tourism has found evidence to suggest that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in anxiety and stress.

The study also states that watching videos and images of cute animals for even 30 minutes is enough to affect heart rate, anxiety, and blood pressure. An associate professor at the University of Leeds, Dr. Andrea Utley put together the 30-minute montage of the cute animals.

The sessions which were conducted in December 2019 involved a total of 19 subjects. 15 of them were students and four of them were members of the staff. Even the study was intentionally timed during the winter exams. It is the usual time for a heightened level of stress and this is significantly high for medical students as stated by Utley.

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30 minutes into the video and all the cases were found to have decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and even anxiety as stated in the study. The average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71—which the study pointed out as, “within ideal blood pressure range.” Even average heart rates dropped to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%. Using the State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (a self-assessment method often used in clinical settings to diagnose anxiety), the anxiety rates tested to have gone down by 35% during the experiment.

The subjects preferred videos of animals interacting with humans

Utley while talking with a leading international daily said that she was pleasantly surprised that during the session every single measure for all the participants dropped. Some had reduced heart rates while others had reduced blood pressure. In the questionnaire, the participants filled while leaving the session showed clear signs of reduced anxiety levels she added.

Yet another unique observation was found during the session as well. When Utley questioned which video clips were preferred by the subjects most answered that they preferred videos over stills and that they particularly liked animals interacting with humans.

Although she hoped to conduct eight sessions she was forced to postpone her study due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Acknowledging the fact that the study will not likely continue until next year Utley is exploring online options as well.

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