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Thinking about getting a dog? What if we told you it would help you live longer? New research supports the growing theory that dogs greatly benefit the health and well-being of their owners.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, a new systematic review and analysis of nearly 70 years of global research was published in “Circulation,” a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings show owning a dog is associated with a 24 percent lower risk 0f death for all causes, compared with not owning a dog. For individuals with previous heart attacks or strokes, the benefits are even greater — a 31 percent reduced risk of early death.

The study’s research involved nearly 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Another study published Tuesday in the same publication found people with dogs have better health outcomes after major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

In this study, heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33 percent lower risk of death compared to people living alone who did not own a dog.

Can Dogs Really Help You Live Longer?

While both studies show a clear correlation between dog ownership and decreased mortality, researchers can’t prove that dog ownership itself is the direct cause of a better life expectancy.

That begs the question — are dog owners just healthier in general because they are more likely to exercise? Studies by the AHA show dog owners get up to 30 more minutes of exercise a day than non-pet owners.

Family with a young boy walking a Siberian Husky

Additional studies suggest the companionship of dogs can reduce anxiety and depression. Reducing stress, anxiety, and depression is important for recovery from many major illnesses, including cardiovascular events.

According to a poll sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, 90 percent of people said having a dog helped them enjoy life and feel loved while 80 percent claimed their pets helped them de-stress.

That’s no surprise — dogs are also proven to make us more social.  One poll found that out of the 2,000 dog owners surveyed, nearly half of the participants made friends while walking their dogs. Plus, 60 percent of owners think their dogs have their own furry friends.

On top of these benefits, dogs can even be trained to sniff out cancers and diseases and detect oncoming emergencies such as diabetic lows and highs.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Owning a dog has many benefits for people of all ages and health conditions. While new research shows a correlation between owning a dog and a lowered risk of mortality, there are many other factors to keep in mind before deciding to become a dog owner.  Even the AHA study says owning a dog “should not be done for the primary purpose of reducing cardiovascular disease risk.”

While growing evidence supports the idea that dogs enhance human health and well-being, most dog owners can agree that the health benefits of their pups are just a bonus to the loving relationship they share.
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