Live Longer with a Dog in Your Life

A pair of studies and an editorial published in Circulation yesterday reinforce a long-standing observation. People live longer with a dog in their lives. So is this cause and effect? Maybe.

These two very substantial studies support a growing body of evidence. In fact, the relationship between owning a dog and risk of death from heart disease is robust. According to the American Heart Association, it may well be cause and effect. But be careful. Owning a dog is not like taking medicine for your heart. That’s why AHA also says getting a dog primarily for preventing heart disease is not wise.

Dog Ownership and Mortality

The first of these two studies is a systematic review and meta-analysis. Caroline Kramer, Sadia Mehmood, and Renée Suen analyzed data from ten carefully selected studies. These studies included data on nearly four million subjects followed for a mean of ten years.

Overall, they found a 24 percent reduction in mortality for dog owners. Narrowing the focus to death from heart disease they found a 31 percent reduction. In other words, they saw that people do live longer with a dog and less death from heart disease is the reason.

Surviving a Heart Attack or Stroke

The second of these two studies looked at the odds of survival after a major cardiovascular event. They analyzed data from 181,696 people who had a heart attack or stroke. A bit more than five percent of them owned a dog.

Once again, the data showed that people live longer with a dog. The reduction in risk of death ranged from 12  to 33 percent, depending on a patient’s circumstances. The benefit was greatest for people who lived alone (except for the dog). It was less for people who lived with a partner or child.

Bottom Line

Dog ownership is not for everyone. But if you’re otherwise inclined, the benefits for mental and physical health are pretty clear. In the companion editorial, Dhruv Kazi tells us:

Although a growing body of evidence now supports the idea that adopting a dog enhances the mental and physical well-being of its human companion, the real reward of dog ownership, in the words of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver, is that there can hardly be a “sweeter arrangement” than the unconditional love of a loyal friend. The health benefits of dog ownership are a welcome and possibly substantial bonus.

Click here and here for the studies, here for the editorial. For further perspective, click here. Finally, for AHA guidance on pet ownership and cardiovascular risk, click here. (For all you cat lovers out there, note that this includes data on the benefits of having a cat.)

Inga, photograph © Ted Kyle / flickr

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October 9, 2019

3 Responses to “Live Longer with a Dog in Your Life”

  1. October 09, 2019 at 9:00 am, Lizabeth said:

    Inga knows that’s right!

    Pumpkin and Tigger could easily be renamed Oxy and Tocin 🙂

    Have a great day Ted! Thanks for all the great info you share!

    • October 09, 2019 at 10:02 am, Ted said:

      Pumpkin and Tigger are the best!

  2. October 10, 2019 at 10:48 am, Allen Browne said:

    I am glad you finally mentioned the effect of cats.