If you’ve also been guilty of watching famous Instagram puppies in the pandemic on loop, and can’t stop scrolling on your Reels because look-at-those-eyes, it’s for a good reason. A study has found evidence to suggest what we may have believed for a while: Watching cute animals contributes to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
The study, conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism, examined how watching images and videos of cute animals for 30 minutes affected blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. The researchers used videos of kittens, puppies, baby gorillas, quokkas—who are also often referred to as the world's happiest animals—for their experiment.
The study was conducted on 19 participants in December 2019, during the winter exam season, since stress levels are the highest during exams. In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, half an hour after watching the videos.
It was revealed that the average group blood pressure fell from 136/88 to 115/71 during the session, while anxiety levels within the group were reduced by an average of 35 percent, with some individuals experiencing a fall of almost 50 percent.
This phenomenon can also be explained by “baby schema,” a concept that says that humans evolved to be drawn towards creatures with big heads, large eyes near the centre of the face, chubby cheeks, and a big forehead because they had to care for babies. So, our attraction to the characteristics of babies can be extended to include animals—in particular baby animals, who, like human babies, often have big heads and features.
In fact, you might even want to keep sending cute videos of kittens and puppies to your crush—a 2017 study also found out that watching cute animals together is beneficial for relationships.
And because the pandemic is a stressful time, with several studies concluding how exactly the pandemic has spiked our anxiety and stress levels, here are some cute animals for you. Here’s to staying healthier!
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