Effect of Dog Ownership on Mental Health Disorders and Quality of Life in Veterans
Approximately 1 in 5 returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Tanielian & Jaycox, 2008), and 22 percent of veterans suffering from PTSD also report symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Mental health disorders such as PTSD have been shown to reduce the overall self-perceived quality of life in Vietnam veterans (Hansson, 2002). The effectiveness of using animals in therapeutic settings for mental health disorders has proven to be successful, specifically demonstrated to be therapeutic and beneficial in treating disorders such as anxiety and PTSD (Chandler, 2005). It is unclear whether veterans who own a pet would report fewer symptoms of PTSD and SAD and perceive a higher quality of life than veterans who do not own a pet. This study examined the relationship between companion dog ownership on veteran mental health and perceived quality of life. Seventy nine veterans (58 male, 21 female) were recruited from Facebook’s veterans groups who completed an online survey gathering information on dog ownership, symptoms of PTSD and SAD, perceived quality of life, and several demographics. No significant relationships were observed between these variables after conducting Pearson’s r correlational analyses. However, a significant correlation was found between veterans who have an “indifferent” view of pet dogs and levels of SAD. Implications of the findings are discussed in how to design future studies that research the relationship between the human-animal bond and mental health disorders in returning service members.