Dog Owners May Live Longer
Dog ownership may be associated with longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone, according to a new study and a separate meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.
“The findings in these two well-done studies and analyses build upon prior studies and the conclusions of the 2013 AHA Scientific Statement ‘Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk’ that dog ownership is associated with reductions in factors that contribute to cardiac risk and to cardiovascular events,” said Glenn N. Levine, M.D., chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership. “Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality. While 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.”
Compared to people who did not own a dog, researchers found that for dog owners:
- The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalization was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
- The risk of death for stroke patients living alone after hospitalization was 27% lower and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.
Researchers found that compared to non-owners, dog owners experienced a:
- 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality;
- 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack; and
- 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues.
In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost 6% being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost 5% being dog owners. Dog ownership was confirmed by data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture (registration of dog ownership has been mandatory since 2001) and the Swedish Kennel Club (all pedigree dogs have been registered since 1889).
The lower risk of death associated with dog ownership could be explained by an increase in physical activity and the decreased depression and loneliness, both of which have been connected to dog ownership in previous studies.
“We know that social isolation is a strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death. Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people,” said Tove Fall, D. V. M., professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health.”