Owning A Dog May Lengthen Your Life, Research Shows

Dog ownership was linked with a 33% lower risk of early death for heart attack survivors living alone and 27% reduced risk of early death for stroke survivors living alone, compared to people who did not own a dog.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Dog ownership may contribute to longer life and better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone, according to new research.

Dr Glenn N. Levine, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership, said findings from a new study and a separate meta-analysis published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association, built upon prior studies that dog ownership was linked with reduced factors that contributed to cardiac risk and cardiovascular events.

“Further, these two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality. While these non-randomised studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this,” Dr Levine said.

The research quoted by Science Daily compared the health outcomes of dog owners and non-owners after a heart attack or stroke using health data provided by the Swedish National Patient Register, while dog ownership was confirmed by data from the Swedish Board of Agriculture (registration of dog ownership has been mandatory since 2001) and the Swedish Kennel Club (all pedigree dogs have been registered since 1889).

Respondents were Swedish residents ages 40-85 who have experienced a heart attack or ischemic stroke from 2001-2012.

The research found that compared to people who did not have dogs, for dog owners, the risk of death for heart attack patients living alone after hospitalisation was 33 per cent lower, and 15 per cent lower for those living with a partner or child.

As for dog owners with stroke, the risk of death for patients living alone after hospitalisation was 27 per cent lower and 12 per cent lower for those living with a partner or child.

In the study, nearly 182,000 people were recorded to have had a heart attack, with almost 6 per cent being dog owners, and nearly 155,000 people were recorded to have had an ischemic stroke, with almost 5 per cent being dog owners.

Separately, researchers analysed patient data of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 separate studies for a composite meta-analysis study.

Of the 10 studies reviewed, nine included comparison of all-cause mortality outcomes for dog owners and non-owners, and four compared cardiovascular outcomes for dog owners and non-owners.

Via these studies, the scientists discovered that compared to non-owners, dog owners experienced a 24 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality; 65 per cent reduced likelihood of death after a heart attack; and 31 per cent lower probability of death from heart attack or stroke.

“Having a dog was associated with increased physical exercise, lower blood pressure levels and better cholesterol profile in previous reports,” said Dr Caroline Kramer, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

“As such, the findings that people who owned dogs lived longer and their risk for cardiovascular death was also lower are somewhat expected.”

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