Archive: It’s Official: Science Says Viewing Animals at the Detroit Zoo Reduces Stress

Detroit Zoological Society shares results of wellness study

April 15, 2019

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

Playful otters. Graceful giraffes. Fluttering butterflies. For those who feel a sense of calm and joy at the very thought of these images, there’s good news. Viewing these and other animals at the Detroit Zoo has been shown to reduce stress.

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), in partnership with researchers at Michigan State University (MSU), conducted a study proving that people exhibit reduced levels of stress upon viewing animals living at the Detroit Zoo.

“Biophilia refers to the natural tendency of humans to focus on and to affiliate with nature and animals,” said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO. “These findings confirm what we at the DZS have always known – the Detroit Zoo is a sanctuary not only for animals but for people as well, a place to relax and recalibrate.”

Participants in the study were hooked up to electrodes in a laboratory setting, given a verbal math test and asked to deliver an off-the-cuff speech. They were then separated into three groups and shown video of either a plain white screen, Detroit traffic or animals living at the Detroit Zoo. MSU scientists measured stress indicators such as heart rate, skin conductance and facial reactions. Results showed that stress levels were lowest among the subjects who viewed the animals.

Participants were then introduced to otters, giraffes and butterflies at the Detroit Zoo. Pulses slowed. Heart rates decreased. Moods lifted. They reported feeling less stressed and anxious compared to when they started the lab procedure.

The takeaway? “If you’re feeling tense, frazzled, keyed up or even blue, a good place to go to feel better is the Detroit Zoo,” Kagan said.

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