Dog Ownership May Boost Lifespan, Especially For People Who Live Alone

Owning a dog may increase one's lifespan, particularly for people who live alone and who have suffered from two common health emergencies: stroke and heart attack. The findings were recently published in an American Heart Association journal where researchers detailed their work. The benefits may largely be due to the increased physical activity and decreased sense of loneliness associated with dog ownership.

The research on this topic involved a new study and a meta-analysis from the American Heart Association. Cardiovascular disease is a common condition with many potential causes, the biggest contributing factors including poor diet and lack of physical activity. Dog ownership tends to help people get more activity in the form of daily walks with their pets.

The two new studies found that dog ownership is ultimately linked to a lowered risk of all-cause mortality and death resulting from cardiac health issues. The AHA's Glenn N. Levin, MD, explained, '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.'

As part of their work, researchers looked at the outcomes of individuals who had a stroke or heart attack and who did and did not own dogs. Breaking down the numbers, the team found that for people who owned dogs and otherwise lived alone, the risk of dying after a heart attack following hospitalization was a huge 33-percent lower. The figure dropped to 15-percent for people who owned dogs and also lived with a child or partner.

For stroke victims, the death risk following hospitalization was 27-percent lower for people who lived alone but owned a dog. The figure dropped to 12-percent for people who lived with a child or partner and also owned a dog.

Those groups aside, the meta-analysis also found that dog owners had a 24-percent lowered risk of all-cause mortality compared to non-dog owners, as well as a 65-percent lowered risk of dying from a heart attack and 31-percent lowered risk of dying from other cardiovascular issues.