Videos and photos of 'cute' animals can reduce stress, study claims

Blood pressure and heart rates dropped after just half-hour

P-aww — we knew it!

Looking at photos and videos of adorable animals can significantly reduce stress and relieve anxiety, a new report claims.

The University of Leeds in England and Tourism Western Australia recently teamed up to investigate the physiological and psychological impact that watching cute animal clips can have, finding that people’s blood pressure and heart rates dropped after just half-hour.

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Watching videos of adorable animals can significantly reduce stress and relieve anxiety, a new report claims.

Watching videos of adorable animals can significantly reduce stress and relieve anxiety, a new report claims. (iStock)

At the beginning of the study, 19 participants viewed still images and short videos of a "range of cute animals," including the quokka. Fifteen members of the group were students set to take an exam 90 minutes after viewing the footage, while the other four participants were academic support staff who reported feeling stressed about work lately.

With the participants' blood pressure and heart rates tested before and after watching, the average blood pressure within the group fell from 136/88 to 115/71. In addition, the average heart rate dropped from 72.2 bpm to 67.4 bpm, or a reduction of 6.65%.

To begin the study, 19 participants viewed photos and videos of a "range of cute animals," including the quokka, pictured.

To begin the study, 19 participants viewed photos and videos of a "range of cute animals," including the quokka, pictured. (iStock)

Researchers also said that anxieties eased, according to individual self-reporting by the participants using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) scale. Across the group, anxiety fell by an average of 35% after looking at the adorable animals — and some individuals even said that the footage relieved their stress levels by nearly 50%.

One participant said that the session made them feel "happy and calm," and another agreed they were "totally focused" in the moment. Most of the group also agreed that they preferred the videos to the photos, and liked shots of animals interacting with humans the best.

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Commenting on the report, Dr. Andrea Utley of the University of Leeds said it was clear the students felt “anxious” before taking exams, and that the content proved effective overall in reducing stress.

"As with other research, it would appear that animals are able to reduce stress and anxiety in humans,” Utley said. “It would appear that images appeal but video clips are more meaningful, and I would therefore expect that physical closeness would be even better.”

“With the results as solid as they are, we’ll be rolling this relaxation method out across other departments so more students can de-stress ahead of their exams.”

And that's not all — pet owners polled in a recent report say that their furry friends have been boosting morale during the coronavirus pandemic, too.

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