The first study, conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, compared the “health outcomes” of dog owners and non-owners after suffering a heart attack or stroke using data from the Swedish National Patient Register.
The study participants were between the ages of 40 and 85 and had suffered heart attacks or strokes between 2001 and 2012. The study found that dog owners who live alone (compared to non-owners who live alone) had a 33% lower chance of dying from a heart attack post hospitalization. Similarly, stroke patients who owned dogs and were living alone after being hospitalized had a 27% lower chance of dying than non-owners.
Another group of researchers performed a meta-analysis, reviewing patient data “of over 3.8 million people taken from 10 separate studies for a composite meta-analysis study,” according to a Monday press release. The data revealed that dog owners had a “24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, 65% reduced risk of mortality after heart attack and 31% reduced risk of mortality due to cardiovascular-related issues” compared to non-dog owners.
In the press release, Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and one of the researchers on the first study, pointed to social isolation as a “strong risk factor for worse health outcomes and premature death.”
"Previous studies have indicated that dog owners experience less social isolation and have more interaction with other people. Furthermore, keeping a dog is a good motivation for physical activity, which is an important factor in rehabilitation and mental health."
However, Fall also noted that more studies are needed to conclusively determine the study results.
"More research is needed to confirm a causal relationship and giving recommendations about prescribing dogs for prevention," Fall noted.
"Moreover, from an animal welfare perspective, dogs should only be acquired by people who feel they have the capacity and knowledge to give the pet a good life,” he added.