THE RELATION OF PET OWNERSHIP, PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS, REGULAR PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND SMOKING IN WHITE-COLLAR WORKERS OF A SPECIAL COMPANY IN BESIKTAS REGION OF ISTANBUL
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Objective: Psychological stress, which deteriorates mental and physical health of individuals at their working environment, is an important problem for public health and health at work. Recent studies have indicated that living with animals might be beneficial for individuals with physical, mental and social health problems, and it could even increase the quality of life in these people. In this present study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between pet ownership, psychological stress level, regular exercising, and smoking among white collar workers. Material and Method: In this cross-sectional study, 212 out of 230 white collar workers (92%), who worked for a business company in Besiktas district of Istanbul, were enrolled. 12-Item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) were applied to define psychological stress levels and mental health conditions of the workers. Data obtained from GHQ-12 was evaluated by using Goldberg type grading method (0-0-1-1). Sociodemographic characteristics of participants, and information about the relationship between pet ownership, and smoking, regular exercising were obtained by a questionnaire form made up of close- and open-ended questions. Data were evaluated by percentage distribution, Chi square test and Mann Whitney U test. Results: Of the participants, 51 were female, 161 were male, and the mean of age was 30.65 +/- 3.56 years. Among the participants, 82 had pets and 130 individuals had no pet. Rate of pet owners was 98.7% in our study group with total score of GHQ-12 <= 1, whereas all participants with the score of 2-3 (moderate) had pets. Moreover, 129 participants, the entire group except one individual, with the total score of GHQ-12 >= 4 expressed that they had no pets. GHQ-12 scores among pet owners were statistically significantly lower than the ones without pets (p<0.001). Smoking rate was statistically significantly higher among participants without pets than the rate in pet owners (p<0.001). Pet owner participants were exercising significantly more regularly than the ones without pets (p<0.001). Conclusion: As far as the reported changes in behavior and attitudes of participants, pet ownership had favorable effects in healthy life behaviors like nutrition, regular exercising, and non-smoking. According to the results of General Health Questionnaire among workers, psychological stress level was higher among participants without pets. We believe that having a pet can be supportive for improving physical and mental health conditions of individuals, who are working under stressful conditions.