There may be a good reason for why we love to watch little piglets and fluffy ducks online.
Seeing adorable animals actually helps to reduce stress levels in humans, researchers at England’s University of Leeds have found.
And we don’t need to see adorable critters in real life for them to have an impact on our sense of wellbeing.
Partnering with Tourism Western Australia, the University of Leeds explored the physiological and psychological impact of ‘cute’ animals on students and staff at the college.
According to a statement, 19 participants were asked to watch a 30-minute slide show that included images and short video clips of a range of animals, including Australia’s iconic marsupial the quokka.
15 of the 19 participants were due to take an exam 90 minutes after watching the slide show. The remaining four participants were academic support staff who had declared they were feeling stressed at work.
Heart rates for every single participant dropped after viewing images and videos of cute animals for just 30 minutes.
The average blood pressure (BP) across all participants also dropped: from 136/88 to 115/71—moving the group average to within the ideal blood pressure range.
Participants who watched the half-hour slideshow also had to answer 20 questions so researchers could assess stress levels under the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
In individual cases, anxiety levels dropped by almost 50%: proving viewing cute animals can be a powerful stress reliever and a mood enhancer.
In fact, across all measures there was a drop in anxiety and stress as a result of watching the short slide show.
So what’s best: images of cute animals, videos, or the real thing?
Dr. Andrea Utley, who led the study, commented, “It would appear that images appeal but video clips are more meaningful, and I would therefore expect that physical closeness [with animals] would be even better.”
There were meant to be eight sessions total, but because of the pandemic the remainder have been postponed. According to CNN, Utley is nevertheless looking at online options so the study can continue.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to share stories of the funniest, sweetest, greatest animals the internet has to offer. After all, it’s good for you.