People who own dogs live longer, a new review of studies suggests. And the benefits may be particularly pronounced in those who have already had a heart attack or other serious heart problems.
Dog ownership has been associated with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease, but until now studies of its effect on mortality have produced mixed results.
For this analysis, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, researchers pooled data from 10 studies that included 3,837,005 people. There were 530,515 deaths over an average of 10 years’ follow-up.
The researchers found that compared with people who do not own dogs, those who do have a 24 percent lower risk of death at any given age, and a 31 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Among people who already had serious heart problems, dog owners had a 65 percent lower mortality rate than those who didn’t own a dog.
The investigators suggest that the advantage could come from the extra exercise involved in dog ownership, and possibly from beneficial psychological effects as well.
The lead author, Dr. Caroline K. Kramer, an endocrinologist at the University of Toronto, said that the studies were observational and do not prove cause and effect.
But, she said, “Look at all the benefits of having a dog — cardiovascular advantages, reduced symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, and the striking association for people who have already had cardiovascular disease, which is really significant.”