There have been lots of studies over the decades of whether or not owning a dog increases a human’s lifespan. Some studies have seemed to indicate that it did, and others showed no effect.
A dog ownership and survival study published in 2019 seems to bolster the evidence that having a dog helps us humans live longer.
Researchers at the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes in Toronto looked at studies on the topic, published between 1950 and 2019, and compiled those results into a single analysis. This included ten studies with a total of nearly 4 million participants. The results were clear: dog owners had a 24% lower risk of mortality of any cause. Dog ownership offered a 31% reduction in risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.
Why might this be?
Some of the studies examined in this analysis specifically noted reduction in blood pressure and triglycerides in people who owned dogs. This beneficial canine effect was present even despite other risk factors like smoking. So there is something about dog ownership that might be helping our hearts! Maybe it’s those extra walks and adventures? Indeed, the study authors note: “A meta-analysis of 11 studies demonstrated that dog owners walk significantly more and are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity than nonowners.” They also note other “positive social-psychological effects” of dog ownership may be at play.
The authors are careful to note that their study was not able to rule out other correlations that would impact lifespan in dog owners versus non-owners. It is possible that factors such as higher wealth and socioeconomic status, or greater physical fitness, may correlate with increased dog ownership (that is, wealthier people or those who are in better shape may be more likely to own a dog in the first place, and it’s those things that reduce mortality, not the presence of the dog).
Regardless, it’s great to know that dog owners are doing well! Does this mean everyone should just go out and get a dog, or get a second dog in the hope of living twice as much longer? Uh, no! Having a dog is a big responsibility: the feeding, the training, the adventures. But if you’ve got a friend who is on the fence, consider mentioning that owning a dog can provide many benefits, including the high probability of prolonging their life. And what an enhanced life it is!
Here’s to unleashing adventures and harnessing fun with our lifesaving – or at least life-lengthening – dogs!