Research connects owning a dog with living a longer life

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Owning a dog is linked to more physical activity and social interaction - Image Credit:  Oscar Sutton via Unsplash  - HDR tune by  Universal-Sci

Owning a dog is linked to more physical activity and social interaction - Image Credit: Oscar Sutton via Unsplash - HDR tune by Universal-Sci

According to a new study, as well as a meta-analysis based on multiple studies, owning a dog may be connected with a longer life and better cardiovascular results, particularly for heart attack and stroke survivors that live solo. 

Studies in the past have shown that loneliness and a lack of physical exercise can negatively affect patients. Researchers of the aforementioned dog ownership study took a look at these studies and wondered if dog ownership could change health outcomes. 

In addition, preceding studies have also revealed that having a dog mitigates social isolation, enhances physical activity and also lowers blood pressure, which led the researchers to believe people that own dogs might have better cardiovascular health compared to people that do not own dogs. 

The scientists decided to compared the difference between dog owners and non-dog owners that had heart issues in the past. It turns out that the risk of death for heart attack patients living alone with a dog after hospitalization was 33% lower than for patients without a dog. Meanwhile, it was 15% lower for those living with a partner or child and a dog versus the same conditions but without a dog. 

When looking at the risk of death for stroke patients, it showed that by living with a dog, this risk was lowered by 27% for those that live alone and 12% for those that live with a partner or a child versus the same conditions, but removing the dog from the equation.

Image Credit:  Andrew Pons via Unsplash

The meta-analysis provides similar conclusions to those of the new study. For this analysis, researchers reviewed patient data from over 3.8 million people drawn from ten independent studies. It concluded that owning a dog versus non-ownership resulted in a 65% lower risk of mortality after a heart attack, a 31% reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular-related issues, and a decrease in risk of 24% for all-cause mortality.

Glenn N. Levine, M.D from the American Heart Association, stated that these studies delivered high-quality data that indicates that owning a dog might reduce cardiac and 'all-cause' risk of death. However, he emphasized that non-randomized studies can't conclusively prove that living with a dog directly leads to a lower mortality risk but that they are at least indicative of this. 

According to Tove Fall, D. V. M., a professor at Uppsala University, it is known that social isolation provides a significant risk factor for poorer health outcomes and untimely death. According to him, keeping a dog provides excellent motivation for physical activity, which is an essential part of rehabilitation and mental health.

So if you're on the fence with regards to getting a dog, be sure to take into consideration that it is probably a pretty healthy decision to do so. Of course, from an animal welfare viewpoint, dogs should only be acquired by people that actually love dogs and want to give their pet a wonderful life. 

Sources and further reading: Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event / Dog ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors

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