2 Minute Medicine is pleased to announce that we are launching Wellness Check, a new series dedicated to exploring new research evidence focused on wellness. Each week, we will report on articles examining different aspects of wellness, including (but not limited to) nutrition, sleep, reproductive health, substance use and mental health. This week, we explore the latest evidence-based updates in mental health.
1. This observational study found that dog owners reported significantly lower social isolation and depression compared to non-dog owners.
2. However, anxiety and perceived happiness scores did not vary significantly between groups.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in the implementation of public health measures limiting social interaction. Notably, loss of social support is a risk factor for decreased mental wellness. Dogs (Canis familiaris) are routinely used as a therapeutic aid to provide social support to patients in long-term and pediatric care. Accordingly, their companionship may reduce feelings of social isolation and associated mental health consequences during COVID-19.
This observational study aimed to delineate the impact of dog ownership on mental wellbeing during a global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants were included who were >18 years of age, spoke English, were able to use a computer, and living in the United States. Individuals who owned an animal other than a dog were excluded from the study. Recruitment was conducted by a third-party research agency during November of 2020. Mental wellbeing was assessed with the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Revised (CESD-R), Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), and Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ).
In total, 1535 participants completed the survey with 768 in the dog owner group and 767 controls without pets. Dog owners reported significantly lower depression scores (p=0.018) than the control group as well as increased perceived social support (p=0.042). Alternatively, no significant difference was seen between groups in anxiety (p=0.186) and happiness scores (p=0216). However, the study results may not be generalizable as only individuals in the United States were recruited and may have been under different COVID-19 restrictions depending on their state of residence. Nonetheless, this study demonstrated that dog ownership may help mitigate the impact of emotional distress of social isolation.
1. This randomized control trial evaluated a mindfulness- and compassion-based program (MCBP) for university students.
2. Significant improvements were seen in measures of stress and self-compassion as compared to controls.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Approximately one third of university students are diagnosed with mental illness. Concerningly, risk of mental illness has increased for this population during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Associated low rates of mental health support in postsecondary students are partially due to inaccessibility and lack of adequate treatment programs. Interventions focused on mindfulness and self-compassion have previously been effective in reducing symptoms of mental distress. Accordingly, a mindfulness- and compassion-based program (MCBP) may help reduce the burden of mental illness on university students.
The present randomized control trial assessed mental wellness parameters in students enrolled in MCBP as compared to controls. The MCBP consisted of six weeks of an instructor-led program and at-home meditation. University students were included who were enrolled in a psychology degree program. Students who previously engaged in meditation practices were excluded. Outcomes were assessed using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire-Short Form (FFMQ-SF), Experiences Questionnaire-Decentering (EQ), Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (SCS-SF), and Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II (AAQ-II).
A total of 30 participants were included, with 15 students in both the control and study groups. The MCBP group improved significantly compared to controls on all outcome measures (p<0.001). Participants in the study group also improved their mindfulness skills (p=0.005), decentering (p=0.019), self-compassion (p=0.005), and experiential avoidance (p=0.002). The major limitations of this study included small sample size and relying on students to accurately report at-home meditation. Overall, the results suggest that MCBP may represent an effective method for reducing mental distress in university students.
1. In this cross-sectional study, those who spent the most time engaging in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) content reported increased anxiety and depressive symptoms.
2. Discussing COVID-19 with peers and viewing COVID-19 information on social media had no social benefits for participants.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a central topic of news, discussion, and social media content since it was classified as a pandemic in March of 2020. COVID-19 content can be frightening, cause social discourse, and be disheartening. Additionally, many individuals have strong negative emotions associated with COVID-19 due to history of being infected, affected family members, and lost income. Prolonged social exposure to pandemic information may negatively impact mood and mental wellbeing.
The present cross-sectional study surveyed adults on their mental health as well as their engagement with social media content and peer discussions focused on COVID-19. Adults who use Facebook and/or Instagram were recruited, with no exclusion criteria specified. Demographic variables, social media usage, and co-rumination on COVID-19 with peers were measured for each participant. Outcomes were assessed via the Center of Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D), State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Health Anxiety Inventory (HAI), and UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS).
A total of 345 participants completed the survey, of which most were women (81%), from the United States (91%), and Caucasian (87%), with a mean income of $91,327. Co-ruminating with peers about COVID-19 and time spent on social media engaging in COVID-19 content were both significantly associated with increased health anxiety, state anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Furthermore, both interactions did not confer social benefits (in the context of social distancing). However, this study was limited due to the homogenous study population and small sample size which could limit the generalizability of the results. In summary, continued social focus on COVID-19 may be detrimental to psychological wellbeing.
©2022 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved. No works may be reproduced without expressed written consent from 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. Inquire about licensing here. No article should be construed as medical advice and is not intended as such by the authors or by 2 Minute Medicine, Inc.