You knew watching videos of puppies and kittens felt good but now there’s data to back that feeling.
A study conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism, has found evidence to suggest that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
The study examined how watching images and videos of cute animals for 30 minutes affects blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety.
Dr. Andrea Utley, an associate professor at the University of Leeds, put together the 30-minute montage of the cute critters.
“There were some kittens, there was puppies, there were baby gorillas. There were quokkas. You know – the usual stuff that you would expect,” Utley told CNN.
The quokka, an adorable creature found in Western Australia, is often referred to as “the world’s happiest animal.”
The sessions, conducted in December 2019, involved 19 subjects – 15 students and four staff – and was intentionally timed during winter exams, a time when stress is at a significantly high level, particularly for medical students, according to Utley.
In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, 30 minutes after watching the video.
The study recorded that average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71 – which the study pointed out is “within ideal blood pressure range.” Average heart rates were lowered to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%.
Anxiety rates also went down by 35%, measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a self-assessment method often used in clinical settings to diagnose anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.
“I was quite pleasantly surprised that during the session, every single measure for every single participant dropped some – heart rate reduced, blood pressure reduced,” Utley said. “When they left, they filled the questionnaire in again and indicated that they were feeling less anxious.”
When questioning the participants, the study found that most preferred video clips over still images, particularly of animals interacting with humans.
Utley hoped to conducted eight sessions in total but was forced to postpone due to coronavirus restrictions. She acknowledges it’ll likely not be until next year that more sessions can be conducted in person. Until then, she’s exploring online options to keep the study going.