Azara Blog: Swimming with dolphins makes you less depressed

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Date published: 2005/11/25

The BBC says:

Swimming with dolphins appears to help alleviate mild to moderate depression, researchers have found.

A University of Leicester team tested the effect of regular swimming sessions with dolphins on 15 depressed people in a study carried out in Honduras.

They found that symptoms improved more among this group than among another 15 who swam in the same area - but did not interact with dolphins.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

All the volunteers who took part in the trial stopped taking antidepressant drugs or undergoing psychotherapy at least four weeks beforehand.

Half the volunteers swam and snorkelled around dolphins for one hour a day over a two-week period.

The others took part in the same activities, but without dolphins around.

Two weeks later, both groups showed improved mental health, but especially so among patients who had been swimming with the dolphins.

The researchers say dolphins' aesthetic value, and the emotions raised by the interaction may have healing properties. Some have speculated that the ultrasound emitted by dolphins as part of their echolocation system may have a beneficial effect.

Let's see. You give a huge amount of care and attention to a group of depressed people and in particular allow them to have an extraordinary experience swimming with dolphins which 99% of the planet cannot afford to do (because it is so expensive) and these people benefit. Are we supposed to be surprised? The only good thing to say about this "research" is that at least they used two random groups (or so it seems). Well hopefully the determination of "improved mental health" was sufficiently unbiased. Sure, if it turns out that flying people to Honduras and letting them swim with dolphins for two weeks has a long enough beneficial effect to match the savings from not taking pills, then it's obviously a great idea. Unfortunately if that were the case you might find a lot more people claiming they were depressed.

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