Here’s a new reason dogs are considered man’s – and woman’s – best friend: A team of Swedish researchers has found that dog owners tend to live longer.
The researchers followed more than three million people with no history of heart disease over a 12 year period. Remarkably, dog owners had a 20 percent lower risk of premature death than non-dog owners.
In fact, the Swedish study found that dog owners had a 33 percent lower risk of death and an eight percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Tove Fall, senior author of the study and an epidemiologist at Uppsala University, says the positive effects of dog ownership were stronger with certain breeds, specifically pointers and retrievers. Fall says this may because of the level of activity associated with specific breeds.
“There’s evidence that petting animals lowers blood pressure,” clinical mental health counselor Amanda Rafkin tells Newsmax Health.
“There’s a sense of social belonging and responsibility that comes with dog ownership, which forces behavioral activation since you yourself have to get up and go for a walk multiple times a day. Now that dog parks are popular there’s an additional social component,” Rafkin tells Newsmax.
Another recent study, published in the journal Gerontologist, found that older dog owners experienced lower body mass index, fewer daily living limitations, fewer doctor visits and benefited from more frequent exercise. Research has also found that owning a dog can help you lose weight, since it forces you to walk your pet each day.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that seniors who owned pets “reported fewer doctor contacts over the 1-year period than respondents who did not own pets.” The study found that owners of dogs were “buffered from the impact of stressful life events on physician utilization.”
Rafkin tells Newsmax Health that many older adults have a difficult time going out and meeting new people. Dogs, she says, can help older adults make friends more easily because they’re apt to speak with other dog owners during walks. That, in term, increases social interaction, which can boost longevity.
Rafkin also says dogs are great for stress reduction. Just a few minutes with a dog has been shown to reduce anxiety and blood pressure and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which both play an integral role in regulating mood. Studies have shown dogs can also ease tension in both work environments and at home.
As people age and retire it’s easy to feel a sense of loss and a lack of purpose. Rafkin says dogs can combat this feeling.
“The responsibility of dog ownership forces older adults to continue to get out and do things even if they’re not feeling at their best. They can also prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation that often accompany the aging process,” says Rafkin.
Rafkin tells Newsmax that dog owners also tend to be less depressed and can help with a variety of illnesses, like Alzheimer’s disease.
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