Pet dogs can relieve stress, lower heart disease risks

| Updated: December 22, 2022 16:09:11

Pet dogs can relieve stress, lower heart disease risks

Did you know dogs can relieve our depression, lower blood pressure, stress and anxiety, reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, reduce loneliness, improve cardiovascular health and increase self-confidence? 

Today's dogs are descendants of wolves, who developed a relationship with humans through hunting. They have proved to be humankind's closest friend for thousands of years. And numerous studies have shown how this animal mentally ails their human friends.

Dog owners face fewer heart attacks

According to the World Health Organization, heart attacks and strokes are the leading causes of death globally. 

The editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, an American College of Cardiology, Dr Martha Gulati, said about a study on death risks from stroke and heart attack, "The most interesting part of this study was that people who lived alone actually seem to get the greatest benefit in both the heart attack group and the stroke group."  

The American Heart Association found in studies that pet owners who walk their dogs get up to 30 minutes more exercise daily than non-walkers. This can effectively help lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Lowering early-dying risks

Owning a dog is tied to lowering one's risk of dying early by 24 per cent, says research in Science Journal. 

"Our analysis found having a dog is protective against the dying of any cause," said New York's Mount Sinai Hospital endocrinologist and an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto, Dr Caroline Kramer, "Dog ownership was associated with a 24 per cent reduction in all-cause mortality." 

"We know that loneliness and social isolation are strong risk factors for premature death, and we hypothesised that the company of a pet can alleviate that," wrote Tove Fall, an associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. He emphasised walking with a dog which can effectively lower mental stress and increase physical activities.

The rise in the number of pet dogs

The number of pet dogs in Europe has witnessed a notable increase since 2010, from around 73 million in 2010 to more than 92 million in 2021. 

This positive trend was accompanied by a similar growth in the number of pet-owning households in Europe, which increased by an estimated 15 million between 2010 and 2019. 

In 2021, the dog population in Europe was measured at approximately 92.95 million, an increase from around 89.8 million in the previous year. Overall, the number of pet-owning households in Europe was estimated to be around 90 million in 2021. 

Dogs can alleviate depression too!

With 1.2 million (52.1 Dogs, 100 Humans) dogs, there is more than one dog for every two humans in Houston, USA, the most dog-friendly city. Dog ownership increased by nearly 11 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which indicates that dogs are being adopted for companionship. 

Among adults aged 18 or older in Houston, 5.2 per cent (189,000 adults) experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. This rate was similar to the rate in Texas but lower than the national rate. 

In a global analysis using artificial intelligence, researchers with Petplan have found that pet owners worldwide are significantly happier than their pet-free neighbours. Pet ownership increases overall happiness by more than 22 per cent globally. 

In this way, Houston's alarming depression rates can also be linked to petting dogs, as a more depressed population meant more dog ownership to fight mental issues.

Another survey finding can be incorporated into this discussion. During COVID-19, 23 million people added a pet to their family to remove their loneliness which is another numerical proof that dogs can alleviate stress. 

Nevertheless, more psychoanalysis research is needed to find concrete evidence in this regard. 

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