A new study published in the Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes shows that dog owners live longer, and having them around can be especially good for people with heart disease and those living alone.
Dr. Caroline K. Kramer of the University of Toronto Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mt Sinai Hospital told Reuters:
“We studied more than 3 million people, and the results are very significant.”
Dog owners have have lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels and a milder stress response than people without dogs. Having a pet – even just a cricket in a cage – is also known to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and social isolation. But past studies looking at whether having a dog extends survival have had mixed results.
The new study showed that, overall, dog owners were 24% less likely to die over the next decade than non-dog owners. People who’d suffered a heart attack or other cardiovascular event had a 65% reduced risk of dying over the next decade if they owned a dog. Dog ownership reduced overall mortality from cardiovascular causes by 31%.
Increased physical activity plays a key role in the cardiovascular benefits of dog ownership, said Kramer, noting that her own step count has climbed “sky high” since she adopted an energetic miniature schnauzer that she walks at least three times a day.
There was no comparable information on cats. Then again, they don’t require walking, and aren’t the most energetic pets.