Anxiety could put you more at risk of being bitten

Anxiety could put you more at risk of being bitten

Those with a fear of dogs might have a new reason to worry. A study, conducted by The University of Liverpool, has suggested that your risk of being bitten by a dog may be higher if you have an anxious personality.

More than 6500 people are admitted to hospital for dog bite injuries every year in England, but hospital records do not differentiate between bites and other injuries inflicted by a dog.

To obtain more accurate data, researchers surveyed 694 people in 385 households in a semi-rural town in Cheshire, England. They wanted to know how many people had been bitten by a dog; whether the bites needed treatment; and whether the victims knew the dog that had bitten them.

Researchers also assessed the person’s emotional stability using the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI), which measures aspects of personality, including emotional stability and neuroticism, to see whether certain traits might have any bearing on the risk of being bitten.

The TIPI scores revealed that the more emotionally stable and less neurotic an individual was, the lower their risk of being bitten by a dog.

As an observational study, no firm conclusions can be drawn but the results could lead to further research.

Lead researcher Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, commented, “Although this was a small study, the findings are insightful and provide much improved indicators of the true burden of dog bites on public health.

“The suggested link between victim personality and risk of being bitten requires further investigation and potential consideration in the design of future bite prevention schemes.

“In order for the UK to develop effective prevention strategies, it is also essential that previously assumed risk factors are reassessed, as this study has also revealed that prior beliefs, such as bites typically being from familiar dogs, are contested.”

One in four respondents said they had been bitten, with men almost twice as likely as women. Current records show the rate of dog bites is 740 per 100,000 people but the survey indicated a rate of 1873 per 100,000 – nearly three times more.

The paper from the study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Megan Chapple

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