Public Release:  Mental health cultivated on the farm

BioMed Central

Time down on the farm with animals could provide some therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to researchers writing in the open access journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health. The results come from the first randomised controlled study of the benefits of farm animals, as opposed to domestic pets.

Bente Berget and Bjarne Braastad of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås, working with Øivind Ekeberg of the University of Oslo, Norway, note that the benefits of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for mental disorders using cats and dogs has been well studied. However, until now, there have been no controlled trials of farm animals in treating psychiatric disorders.

The use of farms in promoting human mental and physical health in cooperation with health authorities is increasing in Europe and the USA, particularly under the Green care banner. Historically, the approach was associated with hospitals, psychiatric departments and other health institutions but today, most Green care projects involve community gardens, city farms, allotment gardens and farms.

To assess the benefits of Green care, the researchers asked ninety patients (59 women and 31 men) with schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders to complete self-assessment questionnaires on quality of life, coping ability and self-efficacy, before a 12-week period spending three hours twice a week working with the farm animals.

The before and after results showed that AAT with farm animals had some positive effect on self-efficacy, the ability to cope, of patients with long-lasting psychiatric symptoms, their quality of life. "During the six months follow-up period self-efficacy was significantly better in the treatment group, but not in the control group," the researchers say.

They add that, "Further controlled studies are needed for confirmation and to more accurately define the psychiatric population with the greatest potential to benefit."

###

Notes to Editors:

1. Animal-assisted therapy with farm animals for persons with psychiatric disorders, effects on self-efficacy, coping ability and quality of life: a randomized controlled trial
Bente Berget, Øivind Ekeberg and Bjarne O Braastad
Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (in press)

During embargo, article available here:
http://www.cpementalhealth.com/imedia/2732305191661727_article.pdf?random=870918

After the embargo, article available at the journal website:
http://www.cpementalhealth.com/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (CPEMH) will encompass all aspects of clinical and epidemiological research in psychiatry and mental health, and will aim to build a bridge between clinical and epidemiological research.

CPEMH is aimed at clinicians and researchers focused on improving the knowledge base for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of mental health conditions; and improving the knowledge concerning frequencies and determinants of mental health conditions in the community and the populations at risk.

The journal will also cover health services research and economic aspects of psychiatry, with special attention given to manuscripts presenting new results and methods in the important area of epidemiology of treatments in mental heath, particularly clinical epidemiologic investigation of pharmaceutical agents.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.