Anxious people more likely to be bitten by a dog

Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

A new study has shown that anxious people get bitten by dogs more than calm individuals. The researchers also found that the actual number of dog bites is much more than estimated before. The study looked at 694 individuals from 385 households and noted that one fourth of them had been bitten by a dog at least once during their lifetime.

The study titled “How many people have been bitten by dogs? A cross-sectional survey of prevalence, incidence and factors associated with dog bites in a UK community” was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Image Credit: Verkhovynets Taras / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Verkhovynets Taras / Shutterstock

The team of researchers looked at various factors that affected a person’s chances of getting bitten by a dog. This included factors like age of the individual, gender and whether they owned a dog. Results revealed that men were 81 percent more likely to be bitten by dogs than women. Those who owned more than one dog were also three times more likely to be bitten by a dog compared to those who never owned a dog. Anxious people were more likely to be bitten by a dog compared to more calm and stable individuals. This was all deduced from the questionnaires that the participants were handed over to them to answer.

According to one of the authors of the study, Dr Carri Westgarth, from the University of Liverpool, anxiety remains one of the most important risk factors for getting bitten by a dog. Further calm dog owners also have calm dogs. Socio-economic status could be an association with this as well she added. She explained that recorded estimates of dog bites are 740 bites per 100,000 people but the actual bites are 1873 per 100,000 individuals according to this new study. She said that this could be because not all bites are admitted to the hospital or required medical treatment and thus they go unrecorded. In fact only around 0.6 percent of the bites needed admission in a hospital and 33 percent required treatment. Over half (55 percent) of the bites were from unfamiliar dogs as reported from the questionnaires. Personality type of the individuals was assessed using the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) questionnaire.

Authors write that this study mainly depended on people reporting their own experiences rather than records and thus could be biased. The sample of participants was also too small to draw conclusions. Further under five children are most at risk for dog bites and they were not included in the study. These limitations notwithstanding, Westgarth said that this was important to raise awareness regarding dog bites. She said that while dog bites do not put people in hospital, it can be serious and should be prevented. Authors write, “Victim personality requires further investigation and potential consideration in the design of bite prevention schemes,” as concluded from the study.

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