Dogs and Schizophrenia


Anchor lead: Can having a dog early in life protect against schizophrenia? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Dogs may indeed turn out to be man’s best friend when it comes to reducing the risk for developing schizophrenia. That’s according to research by Robert Yolken and colleagues at Johns Hopkins.

Yolken: We found when we looked at dogs, much surprising to us was the fact that individuals that remembered having a dog either at birth, or in the first three years of life, had a lower rate of schizophrenia compared to the control group. It was about half of the exposure. We found actually that having a dog slightly later was not associated with very much of a decrease at least not one that we would call statistically significant one that was clearly different in the groups. There was not a protection for bipolar disorder it was just for schizophrenia.  :28

Yolken says looking for environmental factors is critical since twin studies clearly show that they’re important in the development of mental illness, since often one twin will develop such a disorder while the other remains unaffected. Further research may help identify why dog exposure seems beneficial. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.