Do dogs make you happier? It certainly seems like it! Studies show that dogs really do make us humans happier and healthier. Our four-legged animal companions tick all the boxes when it comes to all-round goodness. In this article, find out here why dogs have such great advantages for our health.
Do dogs make you happier and healthier?
Over the course of the pandemic, the role of animal companions changed for good. Throughout this difficult time, many of us have found companionship, love and support in our cats and dogs. In fact, pets were so intrinsic to how we got through the pandemic that over 3 million UK households took on pets between March 2020 and early 2021.
No surprise really! Studies over the past years have demonstrated just how significant the relationship is between dogs and humans. They’ve concluded that enjoying close contact with a dog has many positive impacts on both our mental and physical health.
A longer life thanks to my dog
Why is that? Well, for starters, if you’re the proud owner of a beautiful pooch, then dog-walking is going to be part of your daily routine, whether you like it or not! Dog walking, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, has really positive health benefits. Scientists at Michigan State University found that dog owners are far more likely to complete the recommended 150 minutes of exercise we should all be doing each week.
Specifically, that probability is 34% higher if you’re a dog owner. This is significant since by completing 150 minutes of exercise, you strengthen your cardiovascular system and reduce the likelihood of obesity and high blood pressure. Cholesterol levels are also reduced, making it less likely that you’ll suffer from diabetes, cancer and other similar health issues.
Want to live longer? It turns out dogs help with that too! A study conducted in Sweden analysed data from a huge sample of 3.4 million people over 12 years. They concluded that those who lived alone but with dogs were 33% less likely to die. Couples also enjoyed a lower risk of death and better all-round health. What a great incentive to get out for a brisk dog walk!
And it’s not just our physical health which dogs help. A secondary impact of better physical health is that it reduces our chance of suffering from depression, as shown in a study by the Robert Koch Institute. In fact, they found that physical exercise can be as effective in combating depression as antidepressant medicines.
Stress-free thanks to cuddling?
Own a dog, and you’ll also live a less stressed life! Who could say no to that? Indeed, a study that used students to investigate the impact dogs and cats have on stress levels found that spending as little as 10 minutes with one of these fluffy friends significantly reduces cortisol, a major stress hormone. So, next time you know someone pulling an all-nighter to get that essay in: why not lend them your dog or cat?
For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be studying right now, the good news is that dogs also promote a stress-free work environment. A study conducted by Buffalo University involving 48 stockbrokers (not typically renowned as the most relaxed of professions!) found that spending time with dogs and cats helped with stress management.
In this study, the stockbrokers were already receiving the treatment lisinopril – an enzyme used to treat high blood pressure – but when half of them also got to spend time with animal friends, their cardiovascular measurements stayed much more stable when subjected to stressful environments than their counterparts in the control group.
The takeaway? If you can, bring your dog to work! You and your co-workers will thank you! And if you can’t, rest easy knowing that those dog walks are making you healthier and happier!
Dogs – the perfect complement for kids
It’s not only students and adults who stand to gain from spending time around dogs. Dogs can be really beneficial for children, across a range of issues.
For instance, pets can have a positive impact on allergic development. A Swedish study that examined the rise of allergies during early childhood concluded that the more household cats and dogs that a child is exposed to during the first year of their life, the less allergic manifestation of asthma, eczema and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis were found! Pretty good work there, Rover!
In another context, the work of Sabrina Schuk, a child development specialist at the University of California, has found that therapy dogs can have a positive impact on children with ADHD. Alongside medication, Schuk found during a randomised trial that dogs alleviate symptoms of ADHD and promoted calm and focused behaviours.
So, do dogs make you happier? All in all, dogs are pretty handy to have around. Perhaps that’s the reason we love them so much! Let’s give a hand to our four-legged friends for the love, happiness and health they offer us!