A new study reports that seniors’ health can greatly benefit from owning a dog. Benefits associated with dog ownership include a lower body mass index, fewer visits to the doctor, an increase in exercise, and more active social life.
Lead researcher Rebecca Johnson said, “Our study explored the associations between dog ownership and pet bonding with walking behavior and health outcomes in older adults. This study provides evidence for the association between dog walking and physical health using a large, nationally representative sample.”
The researchers looked at data from 2012, which contained information on human-animal interactions, physical activity, doctor visits, and health outcomes.
“Our results showed that dog ownership and walking were related to increases in physical health among older adults. These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population,” Johnson explained.
The study also found that seniors with strong connections to their pets were more likely to walk their dog and spend more time walking, compared to those with weaker bonds. Pet walking also offers socialization with other pet owners, which can ward off social isolation – a contributor to poor health.
The researchers advise that retirement communities implement pet-friendly policies including dog-walking trails and dog exercise areas in order to boost the health of residents.