Owning a Dog May Help You Live Longer, Research Shows

Studies Reveal That Dog Ownership May Increase Lifespan

There is another reason to consider owning a dog as new research shows that having one may help promote longer life.

Dog

Dog

A study and a different meta-analysis published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes show that dog ownership could improve cardiovascular outcomes and make a person more likely to live longer. The benefits are in particular more significant for people who have survived a heart attack or stroke and who live alone.

The researchers were trying to build upon earlier studies that showed that owning a dog could reduce factors that play a role in cardiovascular events and cardiac risk. It had been revealed previously that dog ownership reduces blood pressure and eases social isolation. A focus of these current inquiries was to learn more about how these benefits are possible.

“These two studies provide good quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality,” Dr. Glenn N. Levine said in a release for the American Heart Association. “While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least supportive of this.”

Lower risk of dying

In the study titled “Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event,” researchers analyzed Swedish National Patient Register health data on health outcomes of patients who owned or did not own a dog following a heart attack or stroke.

The subjects were residents of Sweden who suffered a heart attack or ischemic stroke between 2001 and 2012. Their ages ranged from 40 to 85 years.

Data showed that roughly six percent of the 182,000 persons that had a heart attack owned a dog. Nearly five percent of the almost 155,000 patients who suffered an ischemic stroke were dog owners.

Researchers found that death risk for dog-owning heart-attack patients who lived alone following hospitalization was 33 percent lower, compared to non-owners. The risk of death for patients who lived with a partner or child was 15 percent lower than for those who owned no dog.

As for ischemic stroke death, the rate was 27 percent and 12 percent lower for dog owners and patients living with a partner/child respectively, compared to those who did not own a dog.

Results from the study were corroborated by findings in a separate meta-analysis, in which researchers reviewed 10 studies with combined data of more than 3.8 million people. They found that dog owners had a 24 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared to non-owners. Patients who owned dogs also had a 65 percent lower risk of death following a heart attack. They showed a 31 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular-related mortality as well.

The meta-analysis only included studies with subjects that were at least 18 years old.

What is responsible for a longer lifespan?

According to the authors of the study, a longer life that was linked with dog ownership may be as a result of increased physical activity that it promotes. It can also help to combat depression and feelings of being alone that are capable of increasing the risk of death.

Prior research showed that lack of physical activity and social isolation can have adverse effects on patients.

“We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death. Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people,” said study co-author Tove Fall, D.V.M., a professor at Uppsala University, Sweden. “Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”

The researchers said dogs may be advised in the future as a means of guarding against heart attack and stroke, and associated mortality. However, there is a need for further research to prove a causal relationship before that approach can be adopted by most doctors.

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