The young royals, Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, created headlines last week by revealing the name of their new puppy. Not mentioned in the multitude of stories is how the dog’s presence can affect the health of the future King and Queen. The latest addition to the Royal family, Lupo a four-month-old black cocker spaniel, is an ideal choice of pet for more than his inability to inherit the throne. Medical studies around the world have concluded dogs encourage better health, and adopting a dog statistically boosts the life expectancy of the monarchial pair. Not only is a dog man’s best friend, but Rover’s presence could be better than an apple a day for you.
Dog owners worldwide enjoy longer lifespans on average, and the company a canine provides makes those extra years of life more gratifying. Positive health attributes dogs afford remain a constant for young and elderly alike, including weight maintenance, reduced blood pressure, as well as improved cardiovascular fitness. The benefits of owning a dog are not limited to the physical. People with pets enjoy superior self-esteem, while suffering less depression due to an optimistic mindset that companionship with animals engenders. The variety of sizes, temperaments, exercise needs, and breed peculiarities make dogs as versatile as a Swiss Army knife, and thus accessible to all.
Medical and academic institutions proffer statistics that support a notion of the dog owner as a more active and happier individual. A 2007 study by Queen's University Belfast compiled and analyzed global research data, confirming the science behind dog aficionados leading healthier lives. Published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, their analysis stressed regular walks were only part of the equation. Committee head, Dr. Deborah Wells intimates social climate plays as important a role. "The ownership of a dog can also lead to increases in physical activity and facilitate the development of social contacts, which may enhance both physiological and psychological human health in a more indirect manner."
Studies in Germany, Australia, and China point to dog ownership as sound public policy. An examination of Chinese women (men were excluded) reported increased exercise, fewer doctor visits, and diminished use of sick days at work when a dog is present in the home. Australian and German dog owners were found to use free governmental health services less than the general populace. Pet owners in those countries made approximately 12 to 15% fewer annual doctor visits than their petless peers. German pet owners spent 32% fewer nights in a hospital. The benefits appeared particularly strong for elderly people, the population group with the worst constitutions and heaviest use of health services. The economic benefit was substantial, approximating savings in health expenditure of $5.59 billion for Germany and $3.86 billion for Australia annually.
As with everything in life, age can be a...