Celebrate National Teddy Bear Day For Your Health
September 9 is National Teddy Bear Day, and while you may think this is merely a frivolous notion, teddy bears can have a significant impact on health…and here’s how.
The origin of teddy bears
Before we explore the effect of teddy bears on health, do you know the origin of these cuddly animals? Reportedly President Theodore Roosevelt was hunting in 1902 and came upon a small bear. He refused to shoot the bear, and when word of this event reached the Washington Post, a cartoon depicting the incident was published.
The cartoon sparked the imaginations of Rose and Morris Michtom, toy store owners who asked President Roosevelt if they could call their stuffed animals “teddy bears.” He said yes, and the rest is history.
How teddy bears support health
A recent article published in the Journal of Health Psychology reported on the Teddy Bear Hospital, a medical students’ project that helps children learn about the human body, health, and disease. Authors of the study noted that preschool children who attended the Teddy Bear Hospital had a significantly better understanding of their body, disease, and health than did children who had not been exposed to the Hospital.
Another type of teddy bear hospital was reported in the Israel Medical Association Journal. Researchers developed the hospital as a way to help children deal with the fears associated with hospitalization, medical testing, and hearing bad news about their health.
The authors tested the idea using 91 preschool children: 41 attended the simulated hospital and 50 children acted as controls. The 41 children acted as parents of their own teddy bears and chose a disease for their bear.
Trained medical students acted as doctors and examined the bears, explained simple procedures to the children, gave diagnoses, and talked about treatment. The children could ask questions at any time, and they were encouraged to participate in the examination of their bear.
All the children were questioned about how they felt about hospitalization and what condition their bear had. The authors found that “initiating a controlled pain-free encounter with the medical environment in the form of a teddy bear hospital…can reduce children’s anxiety about hospitalization.”
Some hospitals routinely put this concept to work in teddy bear programs. One such facility is the Clay County Medical Center in Clay County, Kansas. During the school year, hundreds of children ranging from preschool up through third grade pass through the Teddy Bear Clinic, which was started in 2006. The program was designed to help put kids at ease when they are in the hospital.
Teddy bears are “admitted” to the hospital, and children can participate in the examination and diagnosis of the bears. Children also visit various departments throughout the hospital, see how an oxygen mask works, and get to ride on the x-ray table. In addition to classroom tours, parents can have their child participate in the program if he or she is scheduled for hospitalization.
Adults need teddy bears too
A study conducted by Travelodge several years ago surveyed 6,000 British adults and asked them about teddy bears. The researchers learned that 25 percent of men admitted taking a teddy bear with them on business trips.
In an earlier survey, also by Travelodge (which has a line of motels called Thriftlodge tht has a bear mascot named TJ), surveyers questioned 2,000 people. Sixty-three percent of the respondents said they needed a cuddly toy to sleep. Teddy bears were the choice of 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women.
Teddy bears are a symbol of comfort. They are often placed on gravesites and sites where tragedies occur, and they are shipped overseas to soldiers at war. Regardless of your age, it's hard to resist a teddy bear.
So celebrate National Teddy Bear Day today and all days of the year by snuggling up with your favorite bear, no matter how old you are.
Bloch YH, Toker A. Doctor, is my teddy bear okay? The “teddy bear hospital” as a method to reduce children’s fear of hospitalization. Israel Medical Association Journal 2008 Aug-Sep; 10(8-9): 597-99
Clay County Medical Center
Leonhardt C et al. Does the “teddy bear hospital” enhance preschool children’s knowledge? A pilot study with a pre/post-case control design in Germany. Journal of Health Psychology 2013 Jul 1; Epub ahead of print
Updated August 24, 2014