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Rates of anxiety and depression are prevalent in college students and can be attributed in part to stress and trauma-related events. However, studies suggest that pet ownership has the possibility of alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative emotions, and suicide. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between pet ownership and levels of anxiety and depression among those who have experienced a traumatic event. The sample was comprised of five hundred and forty-seven VCU students who completed an online survey from Spit for Science during their junior year. Linear regressions were performed to determine the nature and strength of the relationship between our two variables. After controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, personality, social support, and resiliency, we found statistically significant lower levels of anxiety and depression among pet owners compared to non-pet owners (p=0.004). This study reinforces how pets can impact our mental health, and lends further research to support programs such as VCU’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction (CHAI) and their Dogs on Call program.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Biology, Psychology


Pet-ownership, Anxiety, Depression


Animal Sciences | Biological Psychology | Clinical Psychology | Health Psychology | Other Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Social Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Amy Adkins

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Danielle Dick

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Sandra Barker

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Megan Cooke, Jeanne Savage


© The Author(s)

The Effects of Pet Ownership on Anxiety and Depression Among Trauma-Exposed College Students