Owning a dog ‘may increase length of life’

*article taken from NHS Behind the Headlines

“Dogs could be a heart’s best friend,” reports The Times, after two studies showed people who own a dog seem to live longer than those who do not own one.

The possible beneficial effect – thought to be from a combination of increased physical activity and social support – seemed stronger in people who lived alone with their pet.

One study looked at length of life overall, while the other looked at length of life after a heart attack or stroke.

The article says: We know that physical activity, such as walking, can help people recover from a heart attack or stroke. Owning a dog may encourage people to be more active by taking their dog for a walk.

Social support is also important for health, especially when recovering from an illness. A dog provides companionship and may be a way of getting to know other dog owners in the neighbourhood.

However, the studies do not prove that dog ownership has a direct effect on health, only that it seems to be linked to longer life. While people who enjoy the company of dogs may benefit from exercise and companionship, the study does not show that people who are happily social and active without dogs should get one.

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