Dog ownership is associated with longer life

Posted Nov 1, 2019 by Tim Sandle
A new study finds that dog ownership is associated with longer life. This finding is especially so when it applies heart attack and stroke survivors, where owning a dog was found to lower the risk of death for those who live alone.
A touching moment with a dog.
A touching moment with a dog.
Noël Zia Lee (CC BY 2.0)
The headlines from the new research are that owning a dog correlates with a 33 percent lower risk of early death for heart attack survivors living alone. With those who have survived a stroke, the equivalent figure is a 27 percent lower risk from an early death. Both of these figures are when compared with people in similar situations who did not own a dog.
Across all causes of death, as assessed by the scientists based at Mount Sinai Hospital, owning a dog was found to be associated with a 24 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality when equivalent factors were compared for non-dog owners. Other studies show the adverse effects of social isolation and lack of physical activity upon people who have undergone a major medical trauma.
Some reasons why this may occur is because owning a dog requires a degree of physical exercise. In turn exercise helps to lower blood pressure levels and forms a better cholesterol profile. In addition, there are psychological factors with dog ownership, such as the owner becoming less stressed.
A terrier-type mixed-breed dog.
A terrier-type mixed-breed dog.
Chris Barber (CC BY 2.0)
The data set for the study was relatively large. The researchers examined patient data relating to in excess of 3.8 million people across ten separate studies. Using these data, the researchers developed a model for meta-analysis. Nine of the reviewed studies provided data that enabled a comparison of all-cause mortality outcomes for dog owners and non-owners.
It should be pointed out that the data is about correlation and not causation (the finding are difficult to directly prove, what is known is that there is a pattern).
According to lead researcher Dr. Glenn N. Levine: “These non-randomized studies cannot 'prove' that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this.”
To take the research in a continuing direction, the researchers aim to conduct an interventional study to assess cardiovascular outcomes on patients after adopting a dog. The study will also extend to an evaluation into the social and psychological benefits of dog ownership
The research has been published in the science journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. The research paper is titled “Dog Ownership and Survival After a Major Cardiovascular Event.”