Spending time with farm animals helps the mentally ill

April 11th, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 11 (IANS) Spending some time with farm animals like horses apparently calms down people with mental illnesses, a new study has found. The finding comes from the first controlled study of the benefits of farm animals, as opposed to domestic pets.

The study, by Norwegian scientists, found that the “therapy” had some positive effects on self-efficacy, or the ability to cope, of patients with long-lasting psychiatric symptoms.

Researchers asked 90 patients - 59 women and 31 men - with schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety and personality disorders to complete self-assessment questionnaires on quality of life, coping ability and self-efficacy, before a 12-week period with farm animals.

“During the six months follow-up period, self-efficacy was significantly better in the treatment group, but not in the control group,” the researchers said.

Findings of the study have appeared in open access journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health.

Bente Berget and Bjarne Braastad of the University of Life Sciences, Norway, noted that the benefits of animal-assisted therapy for mental disorders using cats and dogs have been well studied.

However, until now, there have been no controlled trials of farm animals in treating psychiatric disorders.

Historically, the approach was associated with hospitals, psychiatric departments and other health institutions but today, most projects involve community gardens, city farms, allotment gardens and farms.

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