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Want to live longer? Get a dog

Published Oct 8th, 2019 11:07PM EDT
dog health benefits
Image: Cultura/REX/Shutterstock

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If prolonging your time on Earth is a big priority for you, adopting a four-legged friend could help in a big way. A new study that takes into account many decades of research on overall health and pet ownership reveals that people who own dogs enjoy a 24% reduction in overall mortality.

The study is a meta-analysis of research reaching as far back as the 1950s. Ten individual studies were included in this new round of research, with data from nearly four million participants. By lumping all of the data into a larger pile, the researchers can paint an even more accurate picture of how certain factors affect an outcome. In this case, the impact of dog ownership on lifespan was the focus.

The data shows that all-cause morality — that is, the risk of dying from literally anything — is reduced by 24% for dog owners. However, when drilling down into the data it quickly becomes clear what is driving this conclusion, and it’s all related to heart health.

Dog ownership appears closely linked with a reduction in death caused due to cardiovascular issues. This isn’t particularly shocking, and data has long suggested that dog ownership is good for the heart, but seeing how those health benefits translate to a lower risk of death is great.

Interestingly, the positive effects of dog ownership were even greater for individuals who have established cardiovascular issues, including previous instances of heart attack or stroke. For those people, having a dog lowered their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by a whopping 31%, further supporting the idea that the biggest benefit of having a dog is that your heart will be healthier.

But why is that? Studies have revealed that pet ownership, on the whole, can reduce stress, which may translate into a healthier heart, but the answer is probably even more straightforward. Owning a dog means taking it outside, and whether that translates to a spirited walk around the block or some playtime in the back yard, the physical activity that comes with owning a dog is a big plus for your body.