Four-Legged Friends Not a Fad
January 13, 2020
Increased longevity looks pawsitive fur dog owners, according to new studies.
A new study done by the American Heart Association and published in their journal, Circulation, provides evidence that dog owners have overall lower mortality rates, and especially low rates of fatal cardiovascular events.
The study reviews several decades of evidence from studies regarding the relationship between dog ownership and mortality. The data included 3.8 million people of different ages, genders, levels of health, and lifestyles.
Based on all of the data, it was determined that the mortality rate of dog owners was overall 24 percent lower. The results were even more promising for those who had suffered from a cardiovascular event in the past.
Patients who suffered from a stroke or heart attack were significantly less likely to die afterward by a margin of 27 percent and 33 percent respectively.
The question arises, why do dog owners experience these health benefits? And is there any hope for cat people?
Increased Health Benefits
Owning a dog has been shown to come with mental health benefits. A General Social Survey from 2018 showed that people who owned dogs reported being overall happier than cat owners.
Dogs can reduce the effects of anxiety, improve overall mood, and provide a sense of companionship, which can be especially important in elderly people who are living alone. Dog ownership can also help people make social connections through interacting with other people who own dogs.
Junior Cali Thielen agreed that dogs could prove to be an important companion, especially for older people who live alone.
“I think that dogs give you a sense of purpose: a reason to get up in the morning and someone to come home to at night,” said Thielen. “I could see how having an animal could lead to a better mental attitude, which is important as you age.”
Some people find that being with their dog can help them feel better when they are sad or improve their mood, which can be especially important in high schoolers, who are often stressed about school or friends. Sophomore Mina Rizzo agreed, saying her dog makes her a happier person.
“She jumps up and down at the door when I come home and she keeps me company when I’m alone,” Rizzo said.
Dog owners may also live longer because they encourage more physical exercise, and push people to spend more time outside, which has known health benefits. And a bond with a familiar dog can help in stressful situations; petting a familiar dog has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Junior Tillie Rubin says that exercising with her dog keeps both of them healthy and happy.
“I always walk my dog and play outside with him,” said Rubin. “It allows me to get exercise and get outside during the day.”
There are other factors at play too, and of course, owning a dog doesn’t make one invincible.
People who own dogs tend to be younger, wealthier, and more well-educated, which means that they are already at an advantage in terms of mortality over someone who already has health issues taking a toll on their body. And these benefits can only come to someone who is attached to their dog and has formed a bond with them, you can’t simply buy a dog and magically be set to live longer.
Forming a bond that can result in these benefits is a two-way street, and so the time and resources necessary to care for a dog also affect how well someone can care for and bond with their dog. This also affects the demographic of dog owners to people who are possibly more healthy to begin with and able to keep up with a dog.
“I could see especially older people reaching an age when they’re not able to give the dog all of the care and attention it needs,” said Thielen regarding aspects that could get in the way of forming a crucial bond with a dog.
So, while dogs can be a pretty “fetch” companion for some people, it isn’t for everyone, and the benefits won’t be worth the “ruff” lifestyle change for everybody.