Farm Animal-Assisted Intervention for People with Clinical Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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The concept of Green care includes a diversity of interventions at farms, where the common basis of the interventions is use of nature and the natural environment to improve or promote health and well-being. Farm animals are a natural part of this service and farm animal-assisted interventions may act as a complementary intervention within mental health care. The main aim of this study was to examine the effect of a 12-week farm animal-assisted intervention on levels of depression (BDI-IA), state anxiety (STAI-SS), and self-efficacy (GSE) in people with clinical depression. Twenty-nine people (23 women and 6 men, mean age 37.8 years, range 23–58) were randomly assigned to the intervention (n = 16) or a wait-list control group (n = 13). In the intervention group, the participants worked twice a week with the farmer in the cowshed. They interacted on their own choice with dairy cattle via work tasks and physical contact. A significant decline in depression (t (15) = –3.53, p = 0.003) and a significant increase in self-efficacy (t (15) = 2.18, p = 0.045) were seen in the intervention group between recruitment and end of intervention. In the control group, no significant changes were found. No significant differences were found when comparing change in mental health measures in the intervention and control groups. However, more subjects in the intervention group (6) than in the control group (1) had clinically significant change, indicating that animal- assisted intervention in Green care could be beneficial for subgroups of clients and act as a useful supplement within mental health care.
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