People who have more traits of anxiety may be at increased risk of being bitten by a dog, a study has found.
Researchers from University of Liverpool in the UK 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.
Participants were additionally asked whether they owned a dog themselves.
The researchers also assessed 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.
One in four respondents said they had been bitten before, with men almost twice as likely to have been bitten as women.
People who owned several dogs were more than three times as likely to have been bitten as those who did not own dogs, and more than half of respondents said they had been bitten by a dog they did not know.
Hospital records show the rate of dog bites is 740 per 100,000 of the population, but the survey responses indicate a rate of 1873 per 100,000–nearly three times the official figure.
One in three dog bites required treatment, but only a small proportion (0.6 per cent) required hospital admission.
There also seemed to be a link between personality traits and the risk of being bitten, researchers said.
The TIPI scores showed that that the more emotionally stable and less neurotic an individual was, the lower was their risk of being bitten by a dog.
The researchers caution that this was an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, added to which only households in one county in England were included in the study, so the findings may not be applicable to the rest of the UK.
Nor did they consider potentially influential factors such as sex, age, and breed of the biting dog.
"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," said Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at University of Liverpool.
"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," said Westgarth.