Owning a Dog Can Help You Live Longer

A new Swedish study shows that people who live with a dog can extend their lives by 24 percent.


(Javier Brosch / Shutterstock.com)

Healthy lifestyles are in. People are eating better, exercising more, and making better life choices. One of them is sharing your home with a pet.

But did you know that owning a dog can actually help you live longer? A new review of over 70 years of research that was recently published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that owning a dog can actually extend your life by 24 percent. That’s nothing to bark about.

The research that was done in Sweden was analyzed at because over the last four decades there have been a myriad of studies that looked at links between dog ownership and longevity the results were not consistent. Recent studies have shown a connection between living with a dog and having lower blood pressure and decreased cardiovascular risk but did not show living longer as a result.

"I started to wonder what the evidence was across the board and if the results were reliable. It seemed like a great opportunity for further study," Dr. Caroline Kramer, the lead author of the review and dog lover told Sinai Health System.

The researchers reviewed 10 studies with a total of 3.8 million participants. The results were impressive. People who share their homes with dogs had a 24 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause compared to people who didn’t live with dogs.

The review showed an even larger percentage for people who have a history of stroke or heart attacks; 31 percent less chance of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 65 percent lower chance of dying from a heart attack.

Kamer said there is a host of reasons why this could be the case citing studies that show people who live with dogs have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. "One study, my favorite, found just the effect of petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure as much as a medication," she said.

So, is it the canine companionship or the health perks that come with dogs like the exercise involved in walking or running with them several times a day? Or is it the benefit of companionship that helps us live longer? Or a combination of the two?

A recent study showed that dog owners who walk their dogs get over a half-hour more exercise than owners who have other people walking their dogs. So while it is convenient to use a dog walking service, your health will suffer.

But, it doesn’t really matter why, what matters is the measurable benefits of owning a dog is a great side benefit of living with man’s (or woman’s) best friend.

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