A healthy hound = a happier you…really???
Absolutely!! If you already have a dog I’m certain you probably know this already or at least suspect it. The good news is science now backs this up.
Dogs have always been truly valued companions, famed for their loyalty and seemingly constant willingness to put a smile on their owners’ faces. It is fair to say that the majority of dog owners would consider their four-legged friends to be a part of the family; they bring us happiness and companionship, and they never fail to make us laugh with their playful antics.
Research shows how our dogs make us not only happier but more resilient when facing stress and physically healthier.
According to a recent study (Nature magazine 2017) our canine companions may reduce our risk of premature death by up to a third. From an analysis of more than 3.4 million adults, researchers found that people who owned dogs — particularly those in single-person households — were at lower risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality over a 12-year period, compared with people who didn’t own dogs.
Research has also shown that dogs may help to increase owners’ exercise levels, which could help to protect their cardiovascular health. In single-person households, dog ownership was tied to a 36 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death, while dog ownership in multi-person households was linked to a 15 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular death.
“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity,” explains senior study author Tove Fall, also of the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, “which could be one explanation to the observed results.”
“Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” she adds.
However, the benefits may appear thanks to a series of factors related to lifestyle adjustments that people tend to make after they decide to adopt a canine friend.
The most prominent such lifestyle factor is physical activity. There is no way around it: if you own a dog, you have to commit to twice daily walks — and sometimes even more.
According to a paper published in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health, dog owners are more likely to walk for leisure purposes than both non-pet owners and people who own pet cats.
Dog ownership has been reported to be associated with alleviation of social isolation and improved perception of wellbeing, particularly in single persons and the elderly.
“What else can our faithful four legged friends help us with??” I hear you ask…the answer is quite a lot….
Dogs can strengthen our health not just as we grow older, but also much, much earlier than that: before we are even born.
Research published last year suggests that children who were exposed to dogs while still in the womb — as their mothers spent time around dogs during pregnancy — had a lower risk of developing eczema in early childhood.
Perhaps the most intuitive benefit of sharing your life and home with a canine friend is that dogs give you “feel-good vibes” almost instantly.
When we interact with dogs, our oxytocin levels shoot up. Since this is the hormone largely responsible for social bonding, this hormonal “love injection” boosts our psychological well-being.
The old saying “dogs are man’s best friend” is just as accurate as it is cliché. Various studies have proven the effects dogs have on our health and well-being. For instance, in 2011, the American Psychological Association found that pet owners had “greater self esteem, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful, and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”
Lower stress: Studies have shown that petting a dog or cat can release the oxytocin hormone and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, resulting in a more relaxed state. Incidentally, scientists have confirmed that dogs reap the same benefits from being petted. In recent years, dogs have been brought into airports, nursing homes, even school campuses to help relieve stress and pressure.
Healthier hearts: A study dating back to the 80s found that touching or even talking to a dog can lead to lower blood pressure. In 2002, another study found that married couples who owned a pet had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels than people without pets. Furthermore, in 2003, the American Journal of Cardiology published a reported that claims heart attack survivors who own pets are eight times more likely to live another year if they own a pet—this study confirmed the similar findings in the 80s by researcher Erika Friedmann.
More active lifestyles: Need to amp up those steps or drop a few pounds? Owning a dog may be the kick-start you need. A 2011 study by Michigan State University researchers found that 60% of dog owners who walked their pets regularly met the recommended criteria for regular exercise. “There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking,” said epidemiologist Mathew Reeves, who led the study. Of course, it’s recommended you select a dog that fits your lifestyle—in other words, a very active dog would not be a good fit for a more sedentary family
Fewer feelings of loneliness: From feeling obligated to get out of the house to walk their dogs as well as attracting attention by the presence of a dog, people who own dogs are proven to be less lonely. A study published in 1993 found that “dog owners reported significantly less dissatisfaction with their social, physical and emotional states.” Recently, researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, determined that homesick college students could benefit from dog therapy.
Fewer allergies: According to the Department of Pediatrics, infants in homes with dogs are significantly less likely to develop allergies. “Children who had a dog at home as newborns were much less likely to have allergic dermatitius (12% versus 27%) and wheezing (19% versus 36%) by their third birthday,” the department claims. Also, researchers are examining whether the bacteria in dogs’ mouths may have a probiotic-like effect on humans after licking their owners.
So there we have it, conclusive evidence if it was needed, that that four legged furry bundle of joy really does improve you and your families quality of life……now go take them for a nice walk – it’ll do you both the world of good.