Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows the experience can have its, um, drawbacks. Dogs of our acquaintance have been known to shred rolls of toilet paper, gobble food off counters, bark furiously at squirrels and letter carriers, barf on rugs, whine to be walked no matter what the weather and require expensive, time-consuming visits to the veterinarian, sometimes after midnight.
But science has found a definite upside. Owning a dog, it seems, can enhance your health. A survey of research covering nearly 4 million people in the journal Circulation reached the conclusion that on average, keeping a canine companion reduces the overall risk of death by 24% and the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by nearly a third. It all translates into longer lifespans giving new meaning to the term dog years.
The experts at Circulation have some ideas to explain this phenomenon. Several studies have shown that acquiring a dog perforce increases physical exercise (as anyone who has unsuccessfully tried to sleep past the time of a dogs routine morning walk can attest), notes an editorial. It pushes people outdoors, and as your dad may have told you, fresh air never killed anyone.