Can owning an emotional support dog help you live longer? According to several studies, the answer is yes!
We live in a fast-paced world. Change is constant. More Americans are suffering from mental health problems than ever before. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and insomnia are all too widespread.
Mental health conditions can have a negative impact on physical health and longevity. So it’s no surprise that many Americans are wondering… “Would I benefit from an emotional support dog?”.
Emotional support dogs provide loving companionship, which has been shown to improve psychological health dramatically. And improvements in psychological health tend to lead to improvements in physical health.
But ESA dog ownership also improves longevity in many ways that are not directly linked to improved mental health. ESA dog ownership leads to increased amounts of healthy exercise, more time spent outdoors in the fresh air, more vitamin D, and more social connection. All of these things are associated with increased longevity.
In this article, we will discuss what emotional support dogs do, and some of the longevity benefits of ESA dog ownership.
ESA Dog Ownership Reduces Stress
The effects of stress on the body can be devastating. Stress can greatly reduce lifespan if allowed to run rampant, causing a weakened immune system, increased risk of heart attack, and increased blood pressure.
The great news is that owning an ESA dog is a wonderful way to reduce stress and to feel more calm and grounded. A 2001 study found that pet ownership reduced blood pressure responses to stress. So, just being with your ESA – bonding and connecting – will lower your stress levels and blood pressure, which is great for longevity.
Having An Emotional Support Dog Reduces Feelings Of Loneliness
Loneliness is all too common in the modern world. Too many of us get the majority of our social connection via screen – over Zoom, or on social media. Chronic loneliness has a profoundly negative effect on health and longevity.
A 2015 meta-analytic review found that “…individuals lacking social connections… are at risk for premature mortality. The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, including… physical activity, obesity, substance abuse, responsible sexual behavior, mental health, injury and violence, environmental quality, immunization, and access to health care.”
Having an ESA dog to keep you company is an excellent way to alleviate loneliness and to avoid the negative health outcomes isolation can cause.
Bonding With Your ESA Dog Releases Healthy Oxytocin
Connecting with your emotional support dog causes your body to release oxytocin. Oxytocin (AKA the love hormone) greatly benefits overall health and longevity. A 2012 meta-review of 69 studies found that the oxytocin released when you bond with your emotional support dog tends to “reduce stress and anxiety, and to enhance human health.”
The Company Of An ESA Dog Will Reduce Depression
Depression can lead to bad health outcomes that decrease longevity, including inactivity, listlessness, and hopelessness. It can even cause thoughts of suicide.
The friendship of a cheerful, relaxed, loyal emotional support dog is a great way to deal with depression. A 2009 study found that pet therapy decreases negative mood state, tension, inertia, and increases energy levels and overall mood. This suggests that an ESA dog will help with your depression by lifting your mood – and therefore increase your lifespan.
Depressed people also often suffer from excessive self-consciousness. Having an ESA that relies on you will help you to come out of yourself and engage in the world.
ESA Dog Ownership Leads To An Increase In Physical Exercise
When you own an emotional support dog, you have no choice but to get out for some physical exercise every day. This is a great impetus for people who are naturally socially anxious to get out of the house and get moving.
Physical exercise is also incredibly beneficial for cardiovascular health. Dog owners tend to have better cardiovascular outcomes than non-dog owners. A 2019 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), found that dog owners do better after a cardiovascular event.
Another 2019 study from the AHA found that dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of death in general over the long term. Having an ESA dog that you walk every day is fantastic for your physical health and will likely give you a longer life.
Having An ESA Dog Means Spending More Time Outdoors
Another benefit of having to walk your ESA dog every day is more time outdoors. Getting out of the house and into the sunlight and fresh air is fantastic for health and longevity.
Sunlight is especially good for us because it contains vitamin D. Several studies have found that vitamin D is associated with reduced incidence of colon, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers.
So ESA dog ownership not only increases the quality of your life, but it also seems very likely to increase the length of your life too. Yet another great reason to get an ESA letter from Moosh and find yourself an emotional support dog to keep you company!