Effectiveness of Animal-assisted Interventions (AAIs) in Treatment of Adults with Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review

Chris McFalls-Steger, David Patterson, and Phyllis Thompson

University of Tennessee Knoxville

Animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) have become widespread, with programs targeting various populations and mental health conditions. Despite its popularity, AAI’s operational definition and its efficacy are unclear. This systematic review aims to assess the utility of AAIs in decreasing depressive symptoms in adults based upon results of empirically validated depression assessment scales used by researchers. A systematic published literature search was conducted using Web of Science, PsychInfo, PubMed, ProQuest, SCOPUS, CINAHL, Social Work Abstracts, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Peer-reviewed research articles on the effectiveness of AAIs on depressive symptoms in adults using empirically validated depression scales published from 2010 through October 2020 were chosen for this systematic review. Search results were filtered to include only quantitative, peer-reviewed articles for adults 18 and over; those were reviewed, and only journal articles using an empirically established depression evaluation tool were chosen. A total of 10 quantitative articles met these inclusion criteria. Overall, research design quality was low, but AAI had a statistically significant effect on outcomes in most studies. Results are moderately favorable but more thorough, standardized, and controlled research is needed.

Keywords: Animal-assisted Interventions, Adults, Depressive Symptoms.

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Keywords: Adults, animal-assisted interventions, Depressive Symptoms.
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