If you've ever known in your soul that you need a furry four-legged in your life, you probably have plenty of experience with the surge of joy that can happen when a puppy is in proximity. Now, science is backing up your joy. A new study found that having a dog makes you live longer. Like, signficantly longer.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, examined research conducted between 1950 and 2019 in search of proof that doggos can indeed decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In searching for this evidence, researchers found that having a dog does improve your cardiovascular health. People with a history of heart-related health events (like heart attacks) who lived at home with a dog had significantly less risk of developing another event and ultimately dying of cardiovascular complications than folks who did not live at home with a dog.
But the study also found that having a dog does more than just improve heart health. In their assessment of over four million people's health data from their pool of decades of research, the study found that having a dog is associated with reducing your risk of dying from any cause. According to the study, having a dog is "associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality" compared to not having a dog. So, having a dog reduces the risk of dying from basically anything, given that all-cause mortality is a fancy research term for any cause of death.
Dogs don't only reduce risk of dying, however. They can also dramatically improve your quality of living, according to a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Among study participants with chronic low back pain, the study found, people who lived with dogs reported higher levels of human socialization and had lower rates of depression and anxiety.
For people with long-term mental health experiences, too, dogs (and pets in general) are extremely central to managing one's emotions and health, according to a 2016 study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry. When participants were invited to map out their most vital social support structures, pets were consistently within the most central circle of social life. Older adults, too, benefit greatly from relationships with dogs. The decreased loneliness and heightened sense of purpose granted by having a dog improves older adults' resilience against mental health difficulties, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Aging and Mental Health.
The benefits of having a dog expand across human lifespans, too. A 2015 study published in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development examined the role of dogs in the lives and wellbeing of youth experiencing homelessness. As many as 25% of these young people have pets, and while having dogs made it harder to access shelters, the young people with dogs reported feeling more loved and supported because of their furry friend.
But if having your very own furball isn't in the cards for you right now, rest assured. You can still reap the health benefits of having a dog even if you don't have one of your own, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry. The study suggested that there may well be a connection between the mental and physical health benefits of dog interactions. For example, your decreased loneliness from interacting with a dog might lead to actions that would improve your physical health.
These improvements to your overall wellbeing, the study found, could benefit you whether you have a dog yourself or just have access to interacting with a dog (or, happily, multiple dogs). Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that having a dog can improve your human lifespan. Now it's just a matter of interacting with as many puppies as possible to improve your overall HP and live your best, dog-involved life.
Kramer, C.K. (2019) Dog ownership and survival. Circulation, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.119.005554.
Carr, ECJ. (2019) Evaluating the Relationship between Well-Being and Living with a Dog for People with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Feasibility Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31027281.
Brooks, H. (2016) Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27931210.
Hui Gan GZ (2019) Pet ownership and its influence on mental health in older adults. Aging and Mental Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31242754.
Rhoades, H (2015) Pet ownership among homeless youth: associations with mental health, service utilization and housing status. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24728815.
Matchock, RL. (2015) Pet ownership and physical health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26164613.