Caring for farm animals appears to offer a therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to new research.
Earlier studies with cats and dogs have shown that animal-human interaction can decrease stress and improve self-confidence and social competence. But less is known about whether working with other types of animals offers any benefits to those struggling with anxiety or other psychiatric disorders. Even so, the use of farms to promote mental health is increasing in Europe and the United States, as various treatment programs offer so-called “green” care, which includes time in community gardens and on farms as a form of therapy.
To determine whether time working with farm animals makes a meaningful difference in mental health, Norwegian researchers studied how life on the farm might affect patients with problems like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders. Reporting in the journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, they recruited 90 patients, including 59 women and 31 men, with psychiatric ailments. The vast majority were being treated with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers and other medications.