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Dogs Are Life

Lowered risk of mortality associated with having a dog
By Karen B. London PhD, November 2019, Updated December 2021

"Take two dogs and call me in the morning"

Having dogs means living better. It’s hard to argue with that and who wants to, anyway? Well, there’s no arguing with two new studies that conclude that having dogs means living longer. Two recently published studies have found that people with dogs have a reduced mortality risk.

Researchers analyzed multiple studies from 70 years of research on nearly 4 million people in North America, Scandinavia, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. They found that having a dog lowered the combined risk of death from all causes by 24 percent. For people who had previously had a heart attack, the associated benefit of having a dog was a 31 percent reduction in the likelihood of death caused by a cardiovascular event.

A different study of over 300,000 Swedish people also found an association between having a dog and greater survivorship. In this study, the researchers specifically looked at people who had experienced a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or a stroke. Interestingly, people who lived alone had an even greater reduction is risk than those who lived with at least one other person.

Dogs may counteract two health risks associated with living alone—loneliness and social isolation. It’s also possible that single people with dogs may get more exercise as they are responsible for all dog walking activities. Reasons that having a dog may lessen the risk of mortality include alleviation of stress, anxiety and depression, and lowered blood pressure.

To be fair, it’s impossible to conclude from these observational studies that the dogs are the cause of the increased lifespans. The link could be due to healthier people owning dogs in the first place, for example. Still, you might want to encourage everyone who you hope sticks around to adopt a dog, just in case.

photo by daveynin/Flickr

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life