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Grazing sheep can reduce stress on college campuses

A study published in the journal Survey has found that sheep grazing in urban environments may have a positive impact on human mental health. 

The study began as an experiment to determine whether sheep grazing could benefit the physical environment. However, the focus of the research pivoted once the researchers realized the psychological benefits. 

​​“This started out as an experiment to test their mowing abilities, and we have now published research on how they make people feel peaceful,” said study lead author Haven Kiers.

Using in-person and social media surveys, the researchers collected data from approximately 200 students and other individuals on the campus of the University of California, Davis.

“We found that there was a significantly lower likelihood of current feelings of being ‘very stressed’ or ‘stressed’ among the sheep mower group when compared to the group that did not experience sheep mowers. The group with the sheep was just so much happier,” said Kiers.

The experts emphasized the potential for alleviating loneliness by having sheep in these environments.

“Loneliness is a struggle for many of our students,” said study co-author Carolyn S. Dewa. “One robust research finding is that social support is a protective factor for mental health. One of the ways the sheep mower events help to promote mental health is by providing an opportunity for a shared experience.”

“The events help people to see that they are a part of a larger group and give people a sense of community.”

Kiers mentioned that while there are plenty of stress studies that are focused on dogs and horses, scientists should expand the types of animals studied. Researchers should also extend the breadth of landscape management goals.

“We really need to look at how we can get the most out of landscape management, in all forms – in the physical environment as well as mental health.”

By Erin Moody, Staff Writer

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