Do Dog Owners Actually Live Longer?
It’s good news for dog parents.
Dog parents already know the benefits of having a dog are numerous (starting with that whole “man’s best friend,” loving you unconditionally thing). But perhaps there’s one claim that tops the list.
Research shows that being a dog parent can help you live a longer life. And we’ve got insight from our canine experts to back it up. From the health benefits of everyday walks to the sense of meaning a dog can bring to your home, pet parenting can be one ingredient to a long and meaningful life.
Here are a few of the main reasons being a dog parent can potentially add years to your life:
Dog owners live longer because of an increase in physical activity
In a 2019 study from the American Heart Association, researchers connected having a dog with living longer. By analyzing dog parents (more than 3 million, in fact) in 10 studies over the course of 70 years, the study revealed that dog parents lived longer and healthier lives than their non-dog-parent counterparts.
Researchers found that the benefits of daily dog walks greatly benefited participants, especially those recovering from a cardiac event.
“Owning a dog increases physical activity and reduces obesity,” Dr. Claudine Sievert, a registered veterinarian in Kansas and consultant for Stayyy, told The Dodo. “Walking is an excellent physical activity that improves health and assists people in preventing or managing health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Plus, it improves mood, balance and coordination. Dog owners are more likely to get more than the daily recommended amount of physical activity through walking.”
Owning a dog can improve your mental health
Dogs have the unique ability to reduce daily stress. In a study published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1991, researchers found that people with dogs reported a significant reduction in minor health problems within the first 10 months of being a dog parent.
“Depression and stress can lead to a decrease in life satisfaction, and it's been proven that having a dog helps lower anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol,” Dr. Sievert said.
The calming effect and deep bond between dog and his human can be referred to as social recognition, which is the process of identifying another being as someone important and significant to you. Our social bonds, which increase when interacting with others while out walking the dog, play an important role in our mental health, in addition to our physical and emotional well-being.
“Dogs bring us back to the most important aspects of ourselves,” Sasha Armstrong, founder and creator of Canine State of Mind, told The Dodo. “They support us and are loyal to us. Their commitment is something that brings a sense of belonging and generates a calming effect. Being in the company of canines also inspires us to be the best version of ourselves.”
Armstrong also notes, “Dogs offer qualities and ways of being that nurture and calm the human spirit by increasing endorphin production in humans.”
It’s true. Research has demonstrated that the social interaction between humans and their dogs increases levels of endorphins and the hormone oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone.”
Petting a dog can lower your blood pressure
When you pet a dog, you’re not only giving him some attention, but you’re also doing something positive for yourself.
In a National Library of Medicine study made up of 60 undergraduate students, researchers found that the simple act of petting a dog can lower your blood pressure (BP). The study revealed that “subjects’ BP levels were lowest during dog petting, higher while talking to the dog, and highest while talking to the experimenter.”
This is great news, as high blood pressure can damage the arteries and lead to cardiovascular diseases. The simple act of petting a dog can reduce stress and fight against these health issues.
Dogs give us a sense of meaning and connection with others
The need to care and be responsible for another being offers a reason and a sense of purpose to get up every day. And the feeling of being connected to your dog, which in turn helps you connect with others, can aid in mental and physical health.
A study in 2013 for the National Library of Medicine found that social support as a result of daily walks with your dog was essential to the dog owner’s well-being.
Ultimately, it’s pretty clear that being a dog parent can make a real and positive impact on our lives, especially in times of great uncertainty. If you’ve been on the fence about getting a dog, the possibility of adding years to your life seems like a pretty massive endorsement.
And if you already have a pup, go show him how much you love him — he deserves it.