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Assistance dogs help reduce mental health symptoms among Australian Defence Force veterans and emergency services personnel: A pilot study

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The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the effectiveness of two specialized Australian PTSD assistance dog programs in reducing PTSD and mental health symptoms over a one-year period. A total of 44 participants who were partnered with an assistance dog were analysed. Using an intent to treat analysis, compared to the baseline measures, all mental health outcomes exhibited statistically significant reductions in scores at the 3-month follow-up, and persisted at the 6-month, and 12-month follow-up. When comparing baseline to 3-month follow-up the effect size (Cohen’s d) was strongest for stress (d = 0.993), followed by PTSD (d = 0.892), anxiety (d = 0.837). Analyses among those who also completed the waitlist-baseline assessment (n = 23) showed slight reductions in stress and depression prior to receiving their dog (whilst waiting for their dog). However, larger reductions were yielded across all mental health measures when comparing waitlist-baseline to 3-month follow-up.

  • Team/Investigators

    Dr Craig Hansen (Military and Emergency Services Health Australia (MESHA)), Marie Iannos (Military and Emergency Services Health Australia (MESHA)), Associate Professor Miranda Van Hooff (Military and Emergency Services and Health Australia (MESHA))

  • Funding Body

    The Hospital Research Foundation Group and an NHMRC Program grant

  • Expected Completion Date

    June 2023

  • Article Identifier

    DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2023.115212

  • Journal Title

    Psychiatry Research

  • PMID

    PMID: 37079934

  • MeSH Terms

    Assistance dog; Mental health; Veterans.

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