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Research Shows Owning a Dog Is Good for Your Health

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Are you a proud dog owner? Well, you aren't alone. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), roughly 85 million families in the United States own a pet. While cats are the most common pet, dogs are a close second. From small Chihuahuas to large Mastiffs, dogs make wonderful companions. Aside from their unwavering loyalty, though, owning a dog could have a positive impact on your health.

In a new study, researchers found that people who own pets are less likely to suffer from depression than their counterparts who don't own pets. For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,800 adults living in the United States, paying close attention to health markers like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as pet ownership rates. Researchers concluded that participants who owned a dog had better health than participants who didn't own a pet.

"In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level,"said the study's author and researcher Andrea Maugeri. "The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level."

Researchers also found a correlation between dog ownership and mental health. Participants who owned a dog didn't just have better physical health than their non-dog-owning counterparts; they had better mental health as well. Statistics show roughly 7% of the U.S. adult population suffers from major depressive disorder. It's such a widespread condition, in fact, that it consistently ranks as one of the most common health disorders in the country.

An effective way to curb depression, and therefore improve mental health, is to own a dog. According to this recent study, owning a dog improves a person's sense of well-being while subsequently lowering his or her risk of depression.

How exactly does owning a dog prevent depression? The answer to that question remains open to debate, though some researchers theorize it's because of owners close personal relationships to their dogs. Most dog owners don't view their dog as a pet. Rather, they view their dog as a member of their own family. Because of this close personal relationship, owning a dog could prevent or even treat depression.

This study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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