According to two new studies, owning dogs improved people’s cardiovascular systems, making them 21% less likely to die.
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that hugging and kissing a dog provides most people with a rush of happy chemicals. Specifically oxytocin, if you want to get technical. Now, two new studies have proven this, suggesting that these kinds of natural uppers not only make us feel good, but could also help us lead longer lives.
Published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, the studies looked into the lives of 100,000 people with cardiovascular disease over a period of 12 years. Even after variables like age, socioeconomic and marital status, demographic, and location were accounted for, having a pet still improved the subject’s health. Results from the study said that pet owners were 21% less likely to die when compared to their counterparts.
“When you look at the big picture and look at all the evidence around dog ownership and cardiovascular health, it’s pretty clear the signal is real and likely causal,” explained study author, Dr. Dhruv Kazi. Although the research is not definitive, Kazi sees a link between good health — at least in people with cardiovascular diseases — and having a dog.
Speaking to NPR, Kazi lays out why this connection might exist and why caring for dogs is good for people’s health. “We’ve known forever that owning a dog increases one’s physical activity. Regardless of weather, you have to get out and walk the dog. Otherwise, you might be tempted to stay home and watch TV,” he explains.
Other positive outcomes of owning a dog include spending time outdoors, which has always been correlated with better health, and the beneficial effects that they have on people with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and more. Evidence also says that owning a dog reduces blood pressure and improves people’s cholesterol profile, thus having a large impact on cardiovascular health.
If you were stopping yourself from getting a dog because of finances or stress, take all of this data into account. You may have to pay some vet bills and clean up some messes, but you’ll get some good heart health and oxytocin-inducing cuddles.