A study conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and Western Australia Tourism has found evidence that watching cute animal videos may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety. The study involved 19 participants (15 students and four academic staff members) who were asked to watch a 30-minute slideshow that included images and short video clips of cute animals—including videos and photos of the quokka, known as the world’s happiest animal—90 minutes before the students were due to take an exam. A selection of the participants wore heart rate monitors for the duration of the session and physiological readings were taken for all participants before and after the session. 

In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety go down in participants 30 minutes after watching the video. Average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71—which, the study pointed out, is “within ideal blood pressure range.” Average heart rates were lowered to 67.4 beats per minute, a reduction of 6.5 percent. Anxiety rates also went down by 35 percent. “The study results are a fantastic reminder that we benefit massively from exploring and enjoying the natural world,” Elen Thomas, UK Market Manager for Tourism Western Australia, said. “The huge improvement seen in the mood and health of the participants is remarkable and a clear sign that wildlife experiences are important for our wellbeing.”

The study had planned to conduct a total of eight sessions but the sessions were postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. More in-person sessions are planned for next year. In the meantime, the researchers are exploring online options to keep the study going.

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