Dog Owners Over 65 Are Healthier Than Peers [Study]

Dog owners are healthier than their peers past the age of 65, according to a new study released by St. Andrews University and published in Preventative Medicine.

The Telegraph reports that dog owners over the age of 65 have fitness levels a decade younger than their biological age.

The study’s authors said public health officials in the U.K. should introduce “dog loaning” schemes so more people could benefit from dog ownership.

The study, which focused on more than 500 retirees, found that those with dogs were 12 percent more active than those without, and that activity paid some pretty noticeable dividends.

More from The Telegraph:

On average, those with a pet achieved exercise levels the same as those ten years younger, the study from St Andrews University found.

Dog owners also have significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression, researchers found.

Previous studies have looked at the positive benefits of pet ownership on the elderly, with dog owners being shown to have fewer symptoms of depression and decreases in blood pressure and heart rate.

However, the study… is the first to examine in detail levels of physical activity among pensioners [retirees] with and without dogs.

To further solidify the claim that dog owners are healthier past the age of 65, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Zhiqiang Feng, said: “It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.”

The study looked at the activity levels of 547 people with an average age of 79.

About 9 percent (or 50 people) were dog owners, and 75 percent of these individuals routinely walked their animals.

During a seven-day period, participants were asked to wear an accelerometer to track all movements.

Feng said the dog owners’ level of activity matched that of non-dog owners 10 years their junior.

“Our results suggest that dog ownership may motivate personal activity and enable older people to overcome many potential barriers such as lack of social support, inclement weather and concerns over personal safety,” said Feng. “Our findings suggest that there may be merit in investigating whether dog ‘owning’ or ‘loaning’ might be a plausible public health intervention to promote physical activity.”

Do you think there is any value in the finding that dog owners are healthier past the age of 65 than individuals the same age who do not own dogs? Should the U.S. consider starting a “dog loaning” program in cities? Would there be a public health benefit to it? Share your thoughts.

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