Under the Hood

Dog Exposure As A Child Reduces Schizophrenia Risk, Study Claims

A new study found that kids who live with pet dogs at a young age have lower risk of developing schizophrenia. This mental disorder causes delusions, hallucinations and other changes that affect how a person looks at reality, thinks, feels and behaves.

The study, published in the journal Plos One, suggests that dogs help improve children’s immune system. Pets carry some microorganisms that support immunity and blocks schizophrenia.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from 1,371 people between ages 18 and 65. The team divided the participants into groups of 396 diagnosed with schizophrenia, 381 suffering from bipolar disorder and 694 who were mentally fit. 

“Serious psychiatric disorders have been associated with alterations in the immune system linked to environmental exposures in early life, and since household pets are often among the first things with which children have close contact, it was logical for us to explore the possibilities of a connection between the two,” Robert Yolken, study author from Johns Hopkins University, said. 

The participants answered questions about their mental health and whether they owned dogs or cats in the first 12 years of their life. Results showed that those who took care of dogs before the age of 13 had 24 percent lower risk of having schizophrenia, according to Mercola.

“The largest apparent protective effect was found for children who had a household pet dog at birth or were first exposed after birth but before age 3,” Yolken added. 

He explained that dogs potentially carried microorganisms to the house that helped children boost their immune system and prevent schizophrenia.

However, the researchers did not determine the link between exposure to dogs and bipolar disorder. In addition, they have yet to explore how cats contributed or help avoid the mental condition. 

The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) estimates that there are nearly 3.5 million people living with schizophrenia in the U.S. The disorder affects 1.1 percent of the world’s population. 

Symptoms of schizophrenia commonly appear between ages 16 and 25. SARDAA said 50 percent of people diagnosed with the condition do not receive treatment.

child and dogs Researchers found that exposure to dogs early in childhood could help reduce one's risk of developing schizophrenia. Pixabay