Research Article - Current Pediatric Research (2018) Volume 22, Issue 1
Effects of rearing pet insects for improving mental health and salivary diurnal cortisol profile of elementary school children: A Pilot study.
Background: Insects can be potentially used in animal-assisted therapy to improve children’s mental illness. This study was performed to investigate the effects of pet insects on the mental health and diurnal cortisol profile among mentally healthy elementary school pupils. Methods: We enrolled 38 children without any psychological disorders and who met the inclusion criteria. Salivary cortisol profile (4 times/day), Attention deficiency and hyperactivity scale, self-esteem scale and daily hassles scale were evaluated at baseline and after 8 weeks. The subjects were educated every 2 weeks about the insects and how to rear them. They selected three different kinds of insects from among cabbage white butterfly, swallowtail butterfly, stag beetle, rhinoceros beetle, silkworm, or crickets, and reared them in their classroom for 8 weeks. Results: The subjects consisted of 19 boys and 19 girls and their mean age was 11.97 years. The diurnal salivary cortisol profiles (AM–Noon–PM–Night) changed from 4.30 ± 2.28, 2.79 ± 1.38, 2.64 ± 1.77, 3.67 ± 13.34 ng/mL at baseline to 5.51 ± 2.38 (P=0.041), 2.70 ± 1.14, 2.40 ± 0.78, 2.09 ± 2.26 after the experiment, respectively. The diurnal slope was steeper after the experiment than at baseline. Self-Esteem Scale and Daily Hassles Scale scores were 33.74 ± 3.06 and 44.61 ± 11.70 at baseline and 35.24 ± 4.70 (P=0.036) and 38.82 ± 12.95 (P=0.031) after the experiment, respectively. No significant changes were found in Attention Deficiency and Hyperactivity Scale scores. Conclusion: Rearing insects can be used for animal-assisted therapy, which resulted in beneficial effects on diurnal salivary cortisol, self-esteem, and daily stress for the children. Further studies investigating its effect for children and adolescents who are at risk for psychological disorders are needed.Author(s): A Sol Kim, Hae Jin Ko, Hye In Choi, Hana Moon, Seong Hyun Kim